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Judge denies request to close sniper suspect's hearing

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Judge denies request to close sniper suspect’s hearing

  • A judge rejected a request by attorneys for John Lee Malvo to close a preliminary hearing in which some of the government’s evidence against him may be presented.

Jan. 13, 2003 — Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Charles Maxfield Friday refused to close a preliminary hearing for John Lee Malvo scheduled for tomorrow.

Malvo, 17, and John Allen Muhammad, 41, have been accused of shooting 18 people, killing 13 and wounding five in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Malvo’s attorneys requested that the hearing be closed because they claimed publicity from the proceedings would impair the defendant’s right to a fair trial.

Five media companies including The Washington Post, The (Baltimore) Sun, The Associated Press, The New York Times and Media General Operations, Inc. opposed the request for the hearing to be closed.

“Keeping the proceedings open, as presumed by statute, will provide the public with a more complete understanding of the judicial system’s response to the defendant’s alleged crimes, quash baseless speculation, ensure public confidence in the fairness of the proceedings, and provide an outlet for community concern, hostility and emotion,” the media groups wrote in a motion to the court.

Prosecutor Robert F. Horan also opposed efforts to close the hearing.

(Virginia v. Malvo; Media Counsel: Dane Butswinkas, Williams and Connolly LLP, Washington, D.C.; Craig T. Merritt, Christian & Barton, LLP, Richmond) JL

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© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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