Horan May Be Prosecutor at New Trial in '88 Slayings
Saturday, July 7, 2007
The retrial of a capital murder case that ended in a mistrial this week was set yesterday for Jan. 7, and the new trial may still include Fairfax County's longtime chief prosecutor, who was planning to retire this fall.
Alfredo R. Prieto, 41, was convicted last month of two counts of murder, one count of rape and three other felonies in the December 1988 shooting deaths of Rachael A. Raver and Warren H. Fulton III, both 22, in a vacant lot near Reston. But while the jury was considering the issue of whether Prieto is retarded -- which would preclude his execution -- a juror sent out three notes recanting his guilty vote and claiming that the other jurors pressured him. Chief Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Dennis J. Smith declared a mistrial Tuesday.
It appeared to be the final case for Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., who is not seeking reelection after 40 years as the county's top prosecutor. His longtime chief deputy, Raymond F. Morrogh, is seeking to succeed him. Morrogh said yesterday that if he is elected, he will ask Horan to try the case again as a special prosecutor.
Horan's response: "I'd be delighted."
Prieto was on death row in a California prison for the 1990 rape and shooting of a 15-year-old girl when a DNA hit in 2005 linked him to the Raver-Fulton slayings. But his California appeals only recently entered the federal court system and are expected to take 10 years or more to resolve. So Horan chose to extradite Prieto to Fairfax last year in hopes of moving him from trial to appeals to the death chamber in about five years.
After convicting Prieto of capital murder, the jury entered an intermediate stage in the trial. Prieto's lawyers tried to establish that Prieto is mentally retarded and thereby ineligible for a death sentence under a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
It was during deliberations in the retardation stage that juror Aldo Davico Jr. committed misconduct, Smith ruled, by sending out notes and twice disregarding his instructions. Smith reluctantly declared a mistrial Tuesday during the trial's sixth week.
Smith strongly hinted yesterday that he will not preside over the case again. He became chief judge of the Fairfax court this week, a position that carries extensive administrative duties, and he said other judges have advised him that trying a complicated case and managing Virginia's largest circuit court would be too difficult.