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Virginia Plans 2nd Death-Penalty Trial for Sniper

Fairfax County is going ahead with plans for a second death-penalty trial of convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad (search), and his lawyers said Wednesday they might try to call the prosecutor as a witness.

Defense attorneys Jonathan Shapiro and Peter Greenspun, who represented Muhammad in his first trial, have been appointed to represent him in a trial in the killing of FBI analyst Linda Franklin (search), clearing the way for the case to move forward, Shapiro said.

Shapiro said he expects to seek to delay the trial until the conclusion of Muhammad's appeal of his conviction in his first trial, when he was sentenced to death for the murder of Dean H. Meyers at a Prince William County gas station.

The second trial will be prosecuted by Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., who last year obtained a conviction and life sentence for Lee Boyd Malvo (search), Muhammad's teenage accomplice in the series of attacks that killed 10 people in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia in October 2002.

Horan has said a second conviction of Muhammad could serve as "an insurance policy" in case an appeals court overturns his first conviction.

Shapiro said Horan made numerous statements throughout Malvo's trial that work to Muhammad's benefit and said they may seek to call Horan as a witness.

"It's going to be a huge issue," Shapiro said. "You've got the very same guy who took these positions regarding Malvo now taking another position" with regard to Muhammad.

Malvo's lawyers put up an insanity defense, saying the defendant, 17 at the time of the killings, had been brainwashed by Muhammad, but Horan strongly disputed that, portraying Malvo as willful and violent well before he ever met Muhammad.

"You can talk about John Muhammad all you want," Horan said in his closing. "Maybe it was his plan. Maybe it was his idea. But the evidence stamps this defendant as the shooter. ... He did it. Not John Muhammad."

Horan had warned that the state's budget crisis might force him to reconsider trying Muhammad in Fairfax if funding to his office were cut.

Earlier this month, however, the General Assembly passed a two-year, $60 billion budget that largely avoided some of the severe cuts that had been previously been considered.

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