Two suspected snipers accused of killing 10 people in the Washington D.C., Maryland and Richmond, Virginia areas will face their first trials in Virginia. The decision to try them in that state means both are likely to face the death penalty, if convicted.
Virginia is second only to Texas in the number of people put to death for capital crimes. Attorney General John Ashcroft left no doubt this was a factor in his decision to transfer sniper suspects John Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammad to that state from Maryland to face trial for murder.
"We believe that the first prosecutions should occur in those jurisdictions that provide the best law, the best facts and the best range of available penalties," said Mr. Ashcroft.
The two are set to face separate trials. Even though he is a juvenile, seventeen-year-old suspect John Lee Malvo could face the death penalty, if convicted as an adult.
In handing over them over to Virginia, the Justice Department rejected arguments made by prosecutors in Maryland, which has imposed a moratorium on the death penalty, that they were best placed to try the suspects, since most of the sniper killing occurred there.
The two have also been charged with killings in Alabama and Louisiana, and are linked to shootings in Georgia and Arizona, as well.