Potomac News Online | Jurors appointed for Muhammad trial

A jury of 10 women and five men — 12 jurors and three alternates — were seated Friday in the Virginia Beach trial of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad.

On Monday, those jurors can expect to see Muhammad’s alleged accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, when opening arguments and testimony begin in the capital murder case.

The final seven of the 27 jurors needed to start the final selection stage were chosen Friday morning from 12 individuals who were questioned.

After lunch, defense attorneys and prosecutors each removed six, ending the three-and-a-half-day process. In all, 123 Virginia Beach citizens were questioned as to their fitness to serve on the jury that is drawing international attention.

Virginia Beach Sheriff Paul J. Lanteigne confirmed Friday he received an order from Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. to transport Malvo to Virginia Beach so he can appear at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Defense attorney Jonathan Shapiro said after court Friday, “I don’t know what they’re up to,” about the prosecutions strategy in calling Malvo.

Lanteigne declined to say specifically when Malvo would be transferred for security reasons, but it is believed it will occur over the weekend. He said his staff has experience housing co-conspirators, and that Malvo will have a single cell.

“Suffice to say they will be sufficiently separated so that there will be no contact between them,” Lanteigne said.

At the trial’s conclusion, 12 jurors will form the pool to decide Muhammad’s guilt or innocence. The three alternates, whose names will be drawn out of a hat Monday, will be removed when the panel retires to deliberate Muhammad’s fate. The alternates will be known only to the attorneys until they are removed, Millette said.

Before releasing the jurors Friday afternoon, Millette warned them to avoid news reports or people talking about the trial. He specifically directed them not to view a made-for-TV movie, “D.C. Sniper: 23 Days of Fear,” premiering Friday night on the cable channel USA.

Monday morning, defense attorneys will ask Millette to reconsider his Oct. 10 ruling barring mental health experts from the trial. Millette barred defense mental health experts after Muhammad refused to be interviewed by a forensic psychologist hired by the prosecutors.

The court will then hear opening arguments, which Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert said he expects to last a couple hours. Ebert said that Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney James A. Willett will make the opening statements for the prosecution. Defense attorney Peter D. Greenspun is expected to make opening remarks for Muhammad.

Ebert declined to say if he plans to call any witnesses Monday, saying only “the trial will begin.”

Muhammad, 42, and Malvo are charged with a three-week shooting spree in the Washington, D.C., area that killed 10 people. Muhammad is charged with the death of 53-year-old Dean Harold Meyers, who was killed while filling his gas tank at the Sunoco station on Sudley Road north of Manassas.

The trial was moved from Prince William County to this southeastern Virginia city after Muhammad’s lawyers argued that every resident in Northern Virginia could be considered a victim because of widespread fear.

Malvo will be trialed in Chesapeake on Nov. 10 for the murder of Linda Franklin, 47, who was shot while loading purchases into her car in a Fairfax Home Depot parking lot.

Speaking for the first time Friday, Robert Meyers, younger brother of Dean Meyers, said he expects the beginning of the trial will bring back a lot of memories.

“Certainly we’ll never forget all we lived through a year ago. It’s remainder but it’s still in the back of our minds all the time,” he said.

Dean Meyers’ older brother Larry Meyers told reporters Friday that he has been subpoenaed to testify as a character witness. Robert Meyers, Larry Meyers, their nephew and their wives toured the courtroom Friday.

Robert Meyers said the family has too many responsibilities at home to watch the entire trial. He said they intend on being in Virginia Beach for only a few days next week.

“It’s not our position to take vengeance or make judgments. It’s our position to allow the process to continue,” said Robert Meyers, who told questioning reporters the family has never seen Muhammad in person.

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