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Va. Judge Dismisses Case Against Muhammad

Shapiro added that the defense team was "mindful, as we have always been, of the great tragedy involved in this case, the loss of life, the grieving families."

Charles Whitebread, a criminal law professor at the University of Southern California and a former University of Virginia law professor, said Keith's ruling was "absolutely right." He said it showed that the speedy trial law does not permit prosecutors to postpone cases for use as backup or insurance trials.

In Fairfax, Muhammad was charged with murder as an act of terrorism and committing more than one murder in a three-year period in the Oct. 14, 2002, slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47, outside the Home Depot store in Seven Corners.

In addition to having a backup conviction in case the Prince William appeal was successful, Fairfax prosecutors wanted to try Muhammad before he was moved to another jurisdiction and the Fairfax case grew stale.

Franklin's husband, William "Ted" Franklin, could not be located for comment yesterday, and her daughter, Katrina Hannum, did not return a call seeking comment. Neither has spoken publicly about the case other than in testimony in last fall's trials of Muhammad and co-defendant Lee Boyd Malvo.

Malvo was convicted by Fairfax prosecutors in Linda Franklin's slaying and received a life sentence. Further prosecutions of Malvo have been postponed pending a Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the death penalty for juveniles. Malvo was 17 when the shootings occurred.

Malvo, now 19, has agreed to plead guilty later this month in Spotsylvania in the sniper slaying of Kenneth Bridges and the wounding of Caroline Seawell. Defense lawyers said Malvo would drop his appeal in the Franklin case if the Spotsylvania plea was completed.

One of Malvo's attorneys, Michael S. Arif, said yesterday's ruling would not affect Malvo's planned Oct. 26 plea.

The dismissal of the Fairfax case against Muhammad centered on a little-known 1993 Virginia Court of Appeals ruling in a Fauquier County case. In that case, an escapee from the Fauquier jail was later picked up in Hanover County on unrelated charges. The next day, Fauquier sent a teletype to Hanover asking that the escapee, Robert V. Funk, be detained for Fauquier as well.

Funk was not returned to Fauquier for nearly nine months. The appeals court ruled that Fauquier's detainer notice to Hanover constituted an arrest and that Funk should have been tried in Fauquier within five months. The court dismissed Funk's Fauquier conviction.

After Muhammad was convicted in the Prince William slaying of Dean H. Meyers, 53, he sat in the Prince William regional jail awaiting sentencing. On Jan. 6 this year, Detective Chris Flanagan faxed a copy of Muhammad's Fairfax indictment and bench warrant to the jail and also sent a police teletype. "Please use this teletype as a detainer," Flanagan messaged the jail.

But later that day, Flanagan testified at a hearing last week, he called the Prince William jailers at Horan's behest and instructed them not to arrest Muhammad. Jail officers testified that they did not arrest Muhammad but did orally notify him of the detainer.

Horan noted that after Muhammad was formally sentenced to death in March, he was shipped to death row at the prison in Sussex, not to Fairfax. In late May, Detective June Boyle traveled to the prison and served the warrant on him. His Fairfax proceedings began a month later.

Keith ruled that no formal arrest of Muhammad occurred until Boyle's trip to Sussex. But, citing the Funk case, Keith noted that defense attorneys argued that "a detainer constitutes an arrest for speedy trial purposes even if no formal arrest has been made. I agree."

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