Judge to rule on venue of sniper trial

Prince William Circuit Court Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. will release his ruling on the possible move of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad’s trial from Prince William County today, Circuit Court Administrator Robert Marsh said Tuesday.

Millette and Marsh visited the Virginia Beach courthouse Monday. The tour appears similar to the one Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush took of the Chesapeake courthouse shortly before moving Lee Boyd Malvo’s trial there. Malvo, 18, is alleged to be Muhammad’s partner in crime.

“They’re good facilities. There’s an extra court room available, administrative office space, an extra set of offices for the judge, and very good security,” Marsh said of the Virginia Beach courthouse amenities.

The possibility of Muhammad’s trial moving from Prince William increased when prosecutors dropped their opposition at a hearing Friday. Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert told the judge he thought it would be inconsistent to move Malvo’s trial from Northern Virginia and not move Muhammad’s trial.

It would also be logistically difficult, since the trials are scheduled to begin a month apart and may overlap. After a Fairfax Circuit Court judge granted a request from Malvo’s defense attorneys and moved his trial to Chesapeake, speculation increased that Muhammad’s trial would be moved somewhere in the vicinity.

“I don’t care where we go as long as we get a fair jury,” Ebert said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Ebert said moving the trial from Prince William would be a personal hardship, that there would be worries about watering plants and feeding the dog, but there were also benefits.

“When you’re away from this venue, you can concentrate on one trial,” Ebert said. “You’re not plagued by things that happen here on an ongoing basis … that are distracting.”

Calls to Virginia Beach Circuit Court Administrator Michael Davy were not returned by press time.

Muhammad, 42, and Malvo, 18, are charged with committing a series of shootings in the Washington, D.C.-metro area in the fall of 2002. Ten people died and four were injured. The pair have also been connected to shootings in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington state.

In Prince William, Muhammad is charged with the death of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, who was filling his gas tank at the Sunoco station on Sudley Road, north of Manassas, when he was shot. Muhammad is scheduled for trial Oct. 14. Malvo is to go on trial Nov. 10 for the fatal shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot store in Falls Church.