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After 40 Years Prosecuting Crimes, Retirement Is Scary Prospect
U.S. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft chose Horan to prosecute one of the first sniper cases, against Lee Boyd Malvo, and Horan brought home a capital murder conviction without any witnesses identifying the shooter, although the jury did not impose the death sentence. In 1997, he obtained a death sentence against Mir Aimal Kasi, who killed two people outside the CIA in 1993.
Horan said his most satisfying case was the prosecution of Caleb D. Hughes for abducting 5-year-old Melissa Brannen in 1989. Hughes was convicted of abduction with intent to defile; Melissa has not been found.
"That was a really tough case to try," Horan said. "It stayed with me for a lot of years."
Of those that have not been solved, the one that bothers him the most is the death of Gwen Ames, 17, who was found strangled near Lake Anne Plaza in Reston in 1972.
Horan noted some interesting changes in the courts over 40 years. The arrival of Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court ruling requiring police to inform suspects of their rights, changed the tenor of pretrial complaints from police beatings to police failure to "Mirandize."
And the introduction of sentencing guidelines, giving defendants a better idea of how much jail time they might face, has reduced the amount of cases that go to trial to perhaps 10 percent, Horan said.
Horan reduced his own caseload from about 20 a year, mostly homicides that he often began working on the day they occurred, to three or four annually. In recent years, with the increase in guilty pleas, he had no trials.
But he clearly still loves the courtroom. He will handle the double-murder death penalty trial of Alfredo R. Prieto, set for late May.
He's leaving reluctantly. "My only fear is I've known guys who loved what they were doing," Horan said. "They hung it up and they were dead in a year."
He loves playing golf; he drives a Mercedes-Benz 240 sedan he won in a charity event in 2002 when he nailed a hole-in-one. But he doesn't think golf can fill his time, and "there's not a job in the world as interesting as this one."
"I haven't even given any thought to what's next," Horan said. "I'm sure I'll find something to do."