Image: John Allen Muhammad Is Led Into Court
Sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad is led into Prince William County Circuit Court.
updated 10/2/2003 7:03:23 AM ET 2003-10-02T11:03:23

Prosecutors agreed Wednesday to exclude some material from the trial of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad after the defense complained that he was questioned improperly on the string of slayings that terrorized the Washington area last year.

AS A PRETRIAL HEARING got under way on motions in Muhammad’s case, prosecutors said they would not use any material elicited from Muhammad in the 90 minutes before he was advised of his Miranda rights after his arrest Oct. 24. A Maryland detective, James Drewry, testified that most of the early questioning dealt with background issues.

With Muhammad’s trial set to begin in less than two weeks, defense lawyers argued that the entire statement should be thrown out. There was no immediate word on when the judge would rule.

One other significant matter was on the agenda for Wednesday’s hearing, a motion seeking to bar the death penalty on one of two capital murder charges against Muhammad. Defense lawyers argue that an antiterrorism statute under which Muhammad is charged is written in such a manner that the maximum penalty should be life in prison.

Muhammad, 42, and Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, have been charged with 13 shootings, including 10 deaths, over a three-week span in October in Virginia, Maryland and Washington. They are also suspected in or charged with shootings in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Arizona and Washington state.

Muhammad and Malvo had not been in the same room together since they were arrested. But the two men had a reunion of sorts as Malvo appeared as a witness at the hearing. He refused to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Craig Cooley, an attorney for Malvo, said before the hearing that prosecutors wanted to know whether Malvo would testify in Muhammad’s trial. Legal ethics did not allow prosecutors to put a witness in front of a jury if they had a strong expectation that the witness would invoke his constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination, Cooley said.

Malvo is scheduled to return for another hearing in Muhammad’s case on Oct. 7. Cooley said he expected that Muhammad similarly would be called as a witness at a pretrial hearing for Malvo, whose trial is set for Nov. 10.

© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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