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Muhammad Grapples With Reluctant Witnesses

By STEPHEN MANNING
The Associated Press
Thursday, May 25, 2006; 10:30 PM

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- John Allen Muhammad's efforts to put on his own case in the 2002 sniper attacks ran up against a judge who blocked some evidence Thursday and reluctant witnesses who refused to help him in any way.

"I've been threatened. I've been chased off people's property. I've had people's subpoenas balled up and thrown away right in front of me," said J. Wyndal Gordon, an attorney who is helping Muhammad.

Muhammad, who is defending himself against murder charges for six slayings in Maryland, called witnesses who saw other suspicious vehicles and people near crime scenes. He introduced a search warrant from a Virginia home where investigators found bullets similar to those used in the shootings and more than 20 guns.

But several people he planned to call refused to appear because of Muhammad's notoriety, Gordon said.

Gordon said he expected to have three witnesses for Friday, and that because of the difficulty persuading people to come, Muhammad would likely rest his case after that. Circuit Judge James Ryan said he appreciated Gordon's work on witnesses but did not take any action to compel the reluctant witnesses to appear.

Robert Metzger, who testified Thursday that he saw two suspicious people at a Bowie middle school three days before a 13-year-old boy was shot there, said he initially tried to avoid appearing for Muhammad. He eventually agreed when Gordon found him and drove him to the courthouse.

"That guy killed a lot of people," Metzger said after his testimony. "I don't want to be a part of that."

For the witnesses who did appear, Muhammad had difficulty making his points.

He was repeatedly cut short by prosecutors and Montgomery Circuit Judge James Ryan as he tried to question witnesses that included a Secret Service handwriting expert and an investigator from Prince William County, Va. Ryan said Muhammad was not asking proper questions and did not introduce evidence in the proper fashion.

Ryan quashed Muhammad's subpoena for Fairfax County, Va., detective June Boyle, who questioned Malvo after he and Muhammad were arrested Oct. 24, 2002.

Muhammad wanted to question Boyle about notes she took during a lengthy interview with Malvo, claiming she fed details of the attacks to Malvo when he confessed.

Ryan said Muhammad missed his chance to ask about the interview when Malvo testified and ruled against him. "Those areas are not relevant to the evidence as it is being presented," the judge said.

Malvo agreed to plead guilty to the same six Maryland murders this week and gave a detailed, inside account of the planning and execution of the October 2002 sniper shootings.

Both Muhammad, 45, and Malvo, 21, were already convicted of shootings in Virginia. Malvo is serving a life term in prison. Muhammad was sentenced to death.

Prosecutors have said they sought the second trial in Maryland in case the Virginia verdict against Muhammad were ever overturned.

The pair also is suspected of earlier shootings in Maryland, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington state.

Muhammad said in his opening statement that he would prove himself and Malvo innocent. He planned to continue his case Friday and said he has not ruled out testifying himself.

© 2006 The Associated Press