SUSSEX, Va. (AP) – A judge on Friday ordered John Allen Muhammad to be moved from Virginia’s death row to Maryland for his second trial over the 2002 sniper shooting spree in the Washington area.

Muhammad, 44, had fought the extradition but appeared to be in good spirits after the judge’s ruling, grinning and laughing with his attorney. Armed guards blanketed the rural courthouse, with seven guards lining the perimeter of the courtroom.

Sussex County Circuit Judge W. Allan Sharrett did not provide a date for the extradition. Montgomery County, Md., Sheriff Ray Kight said his office is prepared to move Muhammad to Maryland as soon as possible.

“If they say he is to be released to Maryland, the minute that happens, we’re on our way,” Kight said earlier Friday.

Muhammad will face trial in the slayings of six people in Maryland. He is on death row for his conviction in one of the Virginia killings. In all, 10 people were killed and three others wounded in the Washington-area shootings.

Lee Boyd Malvo, 20, who was transferred to Maryland in May, is serving a life sentence for one of the killings in Virginia.

Maryland has agreed to transfer the men back to Virginia after their trials. If convicted there, Muhammad could get the death penalty while Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, faces six consecutive life sentences.

During Friday’s hearing, Muhammad’s attorney, Peter Greenspun, argued that extraditing Muhammad to Maryland would make it difficult for him to access evidence in the Virginia conviction, which he is appealing to the state Supreme Court.

The judge dismissed Greenspun’s arguments.

“The whole issue of the defendant’s access to evidence … that’s an issue for the Maryland courts to address,” Sharrett said.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas Gansler has said the county is obligated to try the two men for the shootings even though they have been convicted in Virginia.

Louisiana still plans to try both Malvo and Muhammad for the slaying of Hong Im Ballenger, who was gunned down in Baton Rouge in the weeks before the string of shootings in the Washington area. Alabama also intends to prosecute them for killing a liquor store manager in 2002.


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