Lawyers tend to get used to deadlines, said Robert F. Horan Jr., Commonwealth's Attorney for Fairfax County.
But not this deadline, said Michael Arif, lead defense attorney for juvenile sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo.
On Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Jane M. Roush set Malvo's jury trial date for Nov. 10, 2003, despite Arif's request that the trial to begin in February 2004.
"No, your honor. I'm not trying to be difficult — perhaps I am," Arif said. "I will not be ready. It is not a realistic date."
Horan, on the other hand, requested that Roush set the trial for June, mid-September at the latest. "Council has had this case since November. They have had three lawyers working on this case since that time," Horan said.
To assist in the Malvo's defense, Roush appointed attorney Craig Cooley to be Arif's co-counsel.
MALVO, a Jamaican citizen, is charged with capital murder in the death of Arlington resident Linda Franklin, who was shot outside of Home Depot in Falls Church on Oct. 14.
Arlington resident William Franklin, Linda's husband, attended Tuesday's hearing to set the trial date. He was seated next to the jury box, on the opposite side of the courtroom from Malvo.
Malvo and John Muhammed, 42, are the suspects in a series of sniper attacks in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia that left 10 dead and three wounded. They are also suspects in shootings in several other states.
Muhammed is scheduled to appear in a Prince William County courtroom on Oct. 14 to stand trial on murder charges stemming from the shooting spree.
Arif and his partners, Tom Walsh and Mark Petrovich will have to interview many witnesses, from across the U.S. and some from Jamaica, some of whom may not come forward voluntarily.
While Horan estimates that the trial would last three weeks once it begins, Arif asserts that two to three months will be needed for the actual trial. Jury selection alone could take one month, he said.
MALVO, WHO APPEARED in court on Tuesday with a new closely-shaved haircut, turns 18 next month, on Feb. 18, according to Horan. Roush ruled that Todd Petit will be removed as his court-appointed guardian at that time.
"I can't say I am surprised, I am a little disappointed. My role is not to be his defense attorney," said Petit. "There are some things I can do for him that his defense attorneys cannot, such as requests for services from various agencies."
Police and FBI received 50,000 to 70,000 tips during the sniper investigation, said Horan. While some will be used as evidence and will be supplied to Malvo's defense team, many were from psychics, dreamists and theorists, said Horan.
"We will run this case until 2006 if I had to hand all over those over," said Horan.
"That's an acceptable date, your honor," said Arif.