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Friday, 15 November, 2002, 15:49 GMT
Fresh charges for US sniper suspects
Muhammad (l) with his lawyer at an earlier court appearance
Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty
Two men suspected of the sniper attacks which terrorised the US last month have been indicted on fresh charges of murder in Louisiana and Washington DC.

Federal investigator removes bag of evidence from woods in Baton Rouge
Investigators search woods near homes of Muhammad's family in Baton Rouge
John Allen Muhammad, 41-years-old, and John Lee Malvo, 17-years-old, were both charged in Louisiana with the murder of beauty shop worker Hong Im Ballenger, who was shot dead 23 September during a robbery at the shop she managed in Baton Rouge.

Prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty.

In the US capital Washington DC, the pair were also charged with first-degree murder over the shooting on 3 October of 72-year-old carpenter Pascal Charlot, a charge which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Media leaks

Police said ballistics tests positively linked bullets used in the killing of Ballenger with the weapon used in several of the Washington sniper killings, the Associated Press reported.

Muhammad's lawyer, Peter Greenspun, talks to journalists outside court
Muhammad's lawyer said media leaks could prejudice the pair's trial

Investigators also found shop receipts indicating the pair were in Baton Rouge at the time of the shooting.

Federal investigators on Thursday in Baton Rouge searched the woods near where relatives and friends of Mr Muhammad lived and took away several tree trunks as evidence.

Mr Muhammad, who appeared in a Virginia court on Wednesday in relation to charges over the 9 October fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, has had another lawyer appointed as the seriousness and complexity of charges against the pair become increasingly apparent.

Jonathan Shapiro is expected to assist Mr Muhammad's current lawyer Peter Greenspun on charges relating to extortion of federal authorities.

Mr Greenspun, who has attempted unsuccessfully to ban cameras in the courtroom where Mr Muhammad appeared, has already criticised law enforcement authorities for media leaks he says have prejudiced the pair's trial.

"I think there are cowards in law enforcement ... who wanted to taint the jury pool and who wanted to seal public perception in this case," he said.

'Confession' row

Earlier in the week defence lawyers for the younger of two US sniper suspects, Mr Malvo, vowed to press for the suppression of alleged statements in which their client confesses to murder.

The team has condemned police for the manner in which the interrogation of the 17-year-old was conducted and for their subsequent leaking of the story to the Washington Post.

Citing unnamed officials, the paper had reported that Mr Malvo had admitted to pulling the trigger on several occasions during a shooting spree in the Washington area last month, which left 10 people dead and three wounded.

Mr Malvo was questioned by investigators on Thursday - an interrogation which his lawyers say was unconstitutional.

"The police are flooding the media and poisoning the jury poll with their own paraphrasing and subjective interpretations of statements made during an unconstitutional interrogation," said defence attorney Michael Arif.

Manhunt

According to the Washington Post, Mr Malvo admitted to pulling the trigger in several of the attacks. The newspaper reported that these included the fatal shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, who was gunned down in suburban Virginia on 14 October.

Malvo has been charged in relation to Franklin's death.

The two men were arrested on 24 October after one of the nation's biggest ever manhunts.

The two suspects will face separate trials for different murders, but prosecutors said they may rely on evidence from any or all of the attacks around Washington DC.

A total of 21 shootings - 14 of them fatal - have now been linked to the pair.


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08 Nov 02 | Americas
07 Nov 02 | Americas
03 Nov 02 | Americas
02 Nov 02 | Americas
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