Attorneys for teenage sniper suspect John Lee Malvo lost a bid yesterday to have a psychiatrist evaluate their client before a hearing that will determine whether he can be treated as an adult and face the death penalty.
Michael S. Arif, one of Malvo's attorneys, told a Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge that he does not know whether he will offer an insanity defense. But he said the defense attorneys' conversations with Malvo, 17, prompted them to seek the guidance of a mental health expert.
"What I want is an expert to tell me what makes this man tick; I just don't know," Arif said outside court. "We need someone who understands the mind more than we do."
Yesterday's flurry of motions in Malvo's case was an early indication of the long and painstaking legal proceedings that will define the high-profile prosecutions of Malvo and his co-defendant, John Allen Muhammad, 41.
Malvo is facing capital murder charges in Fairfax County, while Muhammad faces the same charges in Prince William County. The two are suspected in 21 shootings -- 14 of them fatal -- across the country, including last month's sniper attacks that terrorized the region.
Prince William County officials said yesterday that they sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft asking the federal government to help cover the costs of Muhammad's prosecution. Sean T. Connaughton, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, said in the letter that the prosecution is a matter of "national concern."
"As you are aware, the costs incurred to prosecute these types of cases, including additional crowd control related to media coverage, victim support, jury and witness housing, and investigative costs can be very substantial," he wrote Nov. 18.
Also yesterday, more than a dozen news agencies and organizations filed a motion in Prince William County Circuit Court requesting that television cameras be permitted at Muhammad's trial.
In Fairfax County, Malvo's brief hearing marked his third court appearance in two weeks. Malvo didn't speak openly in court, but occasionally leaned in to whisper to his attorneys. At times he rested his head on the defense table.
Arif and Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. agreed to delay a scheduled Dec. 5 preliminary hearing in the case until Jan. 14. During that hearing, which is expected to last about four hours, prosecutors are required to present evidence of Malvo's alleged involvement in the shootings. If the judge determines that there is sufficient evidence, Malvo's case would be sent to Circuit Court and he would be tried as an adult. But even if the court determines that prosecutors did not show probable cause, the prosecutors can seek an indictment before a grand jury and still get the case to adult court.
In addition to requesting funds to hire a psychiatrist, Malvo's attorneys asked for money to seek experts to evaluate ballistics, fingerprint and DNA evidence that could be presented on Jan. 14.
Prosecutors argued the defense was not entitled to experts early in the process.
Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Kimberly J. Daniel denied the request for a psychiatrist. She agreed to allow the defense to renew the request for other experts in the discovery process.
Outside court, Arif stressed that the prosecution is drawing from the resources of the Fairfax County police, the FBI and several other law enforcement agencies. "What we're doing at this point is trying to level the playing field, just a little bit," Arif said. "We have a 17-year-old facing death."
After the hearing, Horan countered that Arif's requests were highly unusual so early in a case and said Malvo's defense team will be entitled to expert witnesses once the case goes to Circuit Court.
"The taxpayers shouldn't be paying money for experts until the time comes when experts are needed," Horan said.
Arif bristled at Horan's comments: "Fairfax went out and sought this case. Don't tell me about Mr. Horan and his budget-consciousness."
In Seattle, attorneys for Malvo's mother, Una James, won a postponement until December of an immigration hearing. Malvo and James were charged nearly a year ago with illegally entering the United States, and they have had an application pending for legal residency, officials said.
As Malvo's case wends its way through juvenile court in Fairfax, prosecutors in Prince William are gearing up for trial.
The motion filed yesterday by broadcasters -- including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN and Court TV -- asks that Circuit Court Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. allow two cameras in the courtroom for all hearings related to Muhammad's case and for his trial.
Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert and Peter D. Greenspun, who is representing Muhammad, have said live television coverage is a nuisance and could influence testimony. A Circuit Court judge has permitted still cameras in Muhammad's early court appearances.
In a legal memo along with the motion, Washington lawyer M. Evan Corcoran said the public's interest outweighs any possible objection to television coverage, adding, "These events touched not only the lives of citizens in the D.C. metropolitan area, but also persons throughout the nation. "
The documents also indicate that the entire community can be considered a victim of the sniper crimes.
Staff writer Steven Ginsberg contributed to this report.