Prosecutor tries to shake diagnosis of Malvo

CNN News/December 9, 2003

Chesapeake, Virginia -- As the trial for accused sniper Lee Boyd Malvo resumed Tuesday, the prosecutor suggested that a psychologist coerced certain answers from the defendant by playing chess with him at taxpayers' expense.

Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. also accused the psychologist of coordinating his diagnosis to agree with the conclusions of another defense expert.

Malvo, 18, is on trial in the October 14, 2002, slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin at a Home Depot in Falls Church.

Psychologist Dewey Cornell, who has interviewed Malvo extensively, testified Monday that the teenager told him convicted killer John Allen Muhammad shot Franklin while Malvo served as the spotter.

Malvo is charged with capital murder, terrorism and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in the slaying.

Franklin's death was one of 10 fatal sniper attacks in October 2002 that terrorized the Washington area for three weeks. Three more people were wounded.

Malvo had admitted in a taped confession that he was the one who shot Franklin, not Muhammad, 42. A jury convicted Muhammad last month in another slaying and recommended he be sentenced to death.

The defense claims Muhammad indoctrinated the youth who admired him.

After Horan suggested that Cornell consulted with another defense expert so that their diagnoses would "line up," the psychologist responded, "That's not true."

Cornell said he consulted with expert Neil Blumberg about Malvo's mental health several times, and both determined evidence was insufficient to conclude Malvo was delusional. Cornell characterized the discussions as normal and proper.

Blumberg is expected to testify for the defense later Tuesday.

Playing games

Cornell - a key witness for Malvo's insanity defense - testified Monday that after 54 hours with the defendant during 21 jailhouse visits he concluded the teenager suffered from dissociative disorder at the time of the attacks.

Horan suggested Tuesday that Cornell sought to change Malvo's attitudes and played chess with him in order to do so.

Cornell said he played chess with Malvo "to improve our relationship ... so that he would be more likely to tell me the truth."

Horan queried later, "You were getting paid by the taxpayers, weren't you?"

"Not for the chess time," Cornell responded.

On Tuesday, Cornell repeated that he believes Malvo falsely confessed to being the shooter in the sniper shootings because he wanted to spare Muhammad from the death penalty.

"Lee always admitted that he was involved in the shooting with Mr. Muhammad," Cornell said.

But the psychologist said he believes Malvo took responsibility as being the shooter because he blamed himself "for the failure of the mission." Cornell said Malvo told him that he was supposed to be on lookout when police captured him and Muhammad sleeping at a rest stop in Maryland.

Witness: Malvo heard Muhammad's voice

Malvo's attorneys don't dispute that he took part in the attacks but contend he "accepts far too much responsibility" in confessing to pulling the trigger in virtually all the shootings.

The prosecutor has said he must prove Malvo was the shooter to seek the death penalty if the teen is convicted.

Earlier, Cornell testified that Malvo has a serious mental health disorder that would have impaired his judgment at the time of the Franklin shooting.

The psychologist said Malvo told him that whenever he had misgivings about what they were doing, Muhammad was either there to counsel him, or he would hear Muhammad's voice in his imagination.

It was not until May, more than seven months after the two's arrests, that Malvo began breaking away from the older man's influence, Cornell said.

Malvo, he said, began to realize that Muhammad's vision to create a utopia with the proceeds of the sniper shootings did not make sense, asking, "If Allah was behind this, how could we fail?"

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.