When someone is accused of multiple murders, how do prosecutors decide which one to charge the defendant with?

John Allen Muhammad, the so-called DC area sniper, was recently executed in Virginia for the murder of Dean Meyers. He and his accomplice, Lee Malvo, killed 10 people in Maryland and Virginia (only one victim was in DC) and are believed to have committed murders in Washington State and Alabama. Both Muhammad and his accomplice were also tried in Maryland, presumably to ensure that if something went wrong with the Virginia convictions, they'd be on the hook in MD. I recall the legal wrangling between jurisdictions, as the crimes crossed state lines, and ultimately Virginia prosecuted "first".

So how did Virginia prosecutors decide to try him for Meyers' murder instead of the murder of one of the other victims? And in such cases like this, where someone is suspected of several murders, is there a process prosecutors use to determine which crime to charge the person with?

3 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    If there's enough evidence for all of them, they can be charged and tried for all of them. If it's multiple murders (which usually carries a life sentence whether or not it's one or one thousand murders) case where there's not enough evidence to convict them on all of the charges, they'll go with the one they have the most evidence on to assure (or at least that's the hope) the defendant's conviction.

    Source(s): Criminology major, daughter of a lawyer, general interest in law
  • Shogun
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    They will first focus on who had the best case(s) against the defendant. These trials are expensive and there is no need to hold trials that may be weak cases when they can stack on the strong cases and be done with the defendant.

    Source(s): Retired LE
  • 1 decade ago

    The defendant is charged with all of the various crimes.

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