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D.C. Sniper Witnesses May Be Identified

August 27, 2003

MANASSAS, Va. (AP) _ Prosecutors probably will be required to provide defense lawyers the names of witnesses who were able to identify sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad out of a photo lineup, a judge ruled Tuesday.

The witnesses cannot directly link Muhammad to the Oct. 9 shooting of Dean Harold Meyers outside a Manassas-area gas station, but are expected to testify about Muhammad’s general whereabouts during a three-week sniper spree that left 10 people dead and three wounded in the Washington area in October.

Before Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutors had turned over information about only two witnesses who could not identify Muhammad out of a photo lineup. Because such information could be potentially helpful to the defense, prosecutors must provide it.

But prosecutors were reluctant to turn over the information on witnesses who identified Muhammad. Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert said the witnesses might be subject to harassment from defense lawyers.

Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. ordered prosecutors to provide defense lawyers with details about the procedures used in the photo lineup. If at that point defense lawyers still have questions about the procedure, which is likely, prosecutors must give them the witnesses’ names.

Prosecutors agreed as well to provide information about any witnesses who will try to identify Muhammad, 42, through voice or handwriting evidence.

Also Tuesday, Millette ruled that prosecutors must provide any potentially exculpatory information contained in 23 pages of police interviews of people who knew Muhammad when he lived in Washington state.

Defense lawyers contend the interviews contain information that could bolster the argument that a second man, 18-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo, acted on his own during last year’s sniper spree.

They cited arguments made last month by Malvo prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr., who unsuccessfully argued in his case that the 23 pages were not exculpatory for Malvo. In one instance, Horan cited a witness from Tacoma, Wash., who told investigators that ``Muhammad can’t shoot worth a lick,″ while Malvo is a good shooter.

Millette did not require Muhammad’s prosecutors to turn over all 23 pages, just the potentially exculpatory material.

Prosecutors had given the defense team the names of the individuals who were interviewed and said that was all they were required to do. Defense lawyers said many of those individuals have been unwilling to speak to their investigators or were unavailable.

The judge denied a request from Muhammad’s lawyers to conduct an evidentiary hearing on the constitutionality of the death penalty, which prosecutors have said they intend to pursue.

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