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Defense Wants More On Witnesses

Capital defender says he needs details on potential witnesses in murder case because 13 of them were represented by Public Defender's Office in past.

The defense attorney for Daunteril Maurice Hall, a man accused of murdering a Sterling woman, raised the question of a possible conflict for the Public Defender's Office Tuesday, because 13 potential witnesses named by the prosecution have used the services of the Public Defender's Office in the past.

Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney James Plowman had provided the Public Defender's Office with the 13 names but declined to outline how each witness would testify.

That wasn't good enough for defense attorney Paul A. Maslakowski, who said he couldn't know if the Public Defender's Office would have a conflict without more information.

One of the Public Defender's Office's previous clients was the father of the victim, Sherine Williams, who was found murdered Jan. 23 in her Sterling home.

"Nobody's going to ask the grieving father in front of a jury something that is unrelated," Maslakowski told Circuit Court Judge Thomas B. Horne on Tuesday, but added that he still needed more information on each witness.

Maslakowski is an experienced capital defender and serves as Hall's primary counsel as long as the charges still include capital murder, while the Public Defender's Office serves as secondary council.

Plowman seemed to view the request for information on witnesses as a ploy to either force the prosecution to hand over detailed information on witness testimony, or, if he refused, risk a mistrial if, halfway through the trial, the Public Defender's Office found a reason to have a conflict with a witness.

"Basically, we'll go through all this for nothing," Plowman said. "That's what I want to avoid."

Circuit Court Judge Thomas B. Horne sided with Plowman on the Commonwealth's Attorney's reluctance to hand over more information on witnesses, but declined to rule immediately on the situation. He gave Maslakowski two weeks to investigate the 13 potential witnesses and come up with concerns.

"I believe the court needs to know more, but I also think the Commonwealth's Attorney is not required to furnish its case to the defense," Horne said.

SHERINE WILLIAMS, 24, was found dead four days before Hall, 28, also of Sterling, was taken into custody. He was found in Canton, Ohio.

The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office has released few details about Williams' death, but a spokesman did say that it appeared that Williams knew her attacker.

At the time, Hall was wanted on outstanding warrants for felony malicious wounding and obstruction of justice, charges stemming from a May 23, 2004 incident at Briar Patch Park in Sterling when he allegedly struck a 29-year-old Leesburg woman with his fist and a stick.

In Williams' death, Hall is charged with capital murder, robbery and two counts of use of a firearm during the commission of a felony. The maximum sentence for capital murder is execution.