Court Hears Appeal by D.C. Sniper Mastermind

Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, May 12, 2009; 12:52 PM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A lawyer for John Allen Muhammad says the sniper mastermind never should have been allowed to act as his own lawyer for the first two days of his capital murder trial in Virginia.

Jonathan Sheldon told a federal appeals court Tuesday that the failure of Muhammad's trial attorneys to tell a judge about their client's mental health issues violated his constitutional right to effective counsel.

A lawyer for the state argued that Muhammad's competency was never an issue in his trial for one of the 10 murders committed by Muhammad and teenage accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo during a 2002 shooting spree. Muhammad was sentenced to death, and Malvo is serving a life term.

A ruling on Muhammad's appeal is expected in several weeks.

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