Accused US sniper 'brainwashed'

Associated Press/November 12, 2003

Virginia -- Sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo yesterday pleaded not guilty to murder and said he was ready to be tried for the slaying of an FBI analyst during last year's three-week shooting spree.

In a clear voice, the 18-year-old Jamaican-born defendant said "not guilty" each time he was asked for his plea to two counts of capital murder and to one count of using a firearm in a felony. He is accused of slaying FBI analyst Linda Franklin, who was killed by a single bullet on October 14 last year.

Mr Malvo's lawyers plan to pursue an insanity defence.

His lawyers are arguing he was brainwashed by John Allen Muhammad, 42, who is also standing trial over the Washington shooting spree.

Mr Malvo and Mr Muhammad are being tried for different killings; Mr Muhammad is accused of gunning down a man at a gas station.

Both cases were moved away from the nation's capital over concerns that an impartial jury could not be found close to Washington because the shootings had caused such widespread fear.

In Mr Muhammad's case, prosecutors called their final witness after three weeks of emotional testimony from victims and witnesses about the sniper spree that killed 10 and wounded three last October.

Mr Muhammad's lawyers want the charges thrown out, saying prosecutors offered no evidence that he pulled the trigger. Prosecutors contend Mr Muhammad exerted such control over Mr Malvo that Mr Muhammad should be held responsible even if Mr Malvo pulled the trigger.

Similarly, Mr Malvo's lawyers plan to argue that he was so "indoctrinated" by Mr Muhammad that he either did not know what he was doing or could not control himself.

Mr Malvo's trial is expected to last six weeks.

While Mr Malvo and Mr Muhammad are on trial for one killing each, to win a death sentence prosecutors must show the two took part in multiple killings or terrorised the public.

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