Million Dollar Trials Due For Sniper Defendants

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County supervisors in Prince William County, Va., will allot $1.2 million today to fund the trial of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad, the Washington Post says. The county has beent old that the Justice Department will contribute $200,000, leaving the county with a $1 million burden. In nearby Fairfax County, the Board of Supervisors yesterday approved a request by police and prosecutors to apply for a similar $200,000 federal grant to help defray expenses for the prosecution and trial of Muhammad’s alleged co-conspirator, Lee Boyd Malvo.

It was the first official indication of how expensive the first sniper trials are likely to be. Moving each suspect’s trial to southern Virginia figures to be the most costly element: it may require hundreds of thousands of dollars to transport, house, and feed witnesses, prosecutors and investigators for trials that will each last several weeks.

Muhammad, 42, is charged with killing Dean H. Meyers, 53, at a gas station. Malvo, 18, is charged with the slaying of Linda Franklin, 47, in a store parking lot. Muhammad and Malvo are suspected in 19 shootings across the country.

Calling the Muhammad case “the most expensive … I’ve ever seen, by far,” Prince William County prosecutor Paul B. Ebert said, “It’s tragic that the taxpayers have to bear a financial burden to this extent.”

After the federal aid was offered, attorneys for Malvo demanded an accounting of the prosecution’s costs and funding. Craig S. Cooley, a Malvo attorneys, said he didn’t know “of any other case where the federal government, through the Justice Department, has been willing to fund a state prosecution.” He said the defense is entitled to similar help.


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