Malvo brainwashed, his attorneys contend

The Associated Press/November 11, 2003
By Sonja Barisic

Chesapeake, Va. -- As sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad stood trial in a courtroom 15 miles away, jury selection began yesterday in the murder case against 18-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo, with his lawyers arguing he was brainwashed by the older Muhammad.

Malvo, wearing black pants and a navy sweater over a white shirt, responded "not guilty" in a clear voice each time he was asked for a plea to two counts of capital murder and one count of using a firearm in a felony.

He is accused in the slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, who was cut down by a single bullet outside a Home Depot store Oct. 14, 2002.

In contrast to Muhammad's usually stony demeanor, Malvo smiled frequently and occasionally laughed as he conferred with his attorneys.

His lawyers plan to pursue an insanity defense, and they said yesterday after court that they have subpoenaed Muhammad to testify in an attempt to bolster their brainwashing theory.

"We have a number of questions we would like to ask him," defense attorney Craig Cooley said, "not the least of which is the motivation for the indoctrination of Lee."

Cooley also said the defense expects Muhammad's former wife, Mildred Muhammad, to testify "to describe the manipulative nature of Mr. Muhammad."

Malvo and Muhammad, 42, are being tried for different killings; Muhammad is accused of gunning down Dean Meyers at a gas station. The pair have been accused of killing 10 people and wounding three during the sniper spree last fall in the Washington, D.C., area.

Both cases were moved away from the nation's capital out of concern that an impartial jury could not be found close to Washington because the shootings caused such widespread fear. Malvo's case was moved to Chesapeake, Muhammad's to nearby Virginia Beach.

In Muhammad's case, prosecutors called their final witness after three weeks of emotional testimony from victims and witnesses about the sniper killings.

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

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

Twelve jurors and four alternates will be selected from a pool of 151 potential jurors for Malvo's trial, which is expected to last six weeks.

The judge and attorneys questioned potential jurors about whether they had heard about the case in the media, whether they could fairly weigh evidence about brainwashing and insanity and whether they would be willing to impose the death penalty on someone under 18.

Malvo was four months shy of his 18th birthday when the sniper spree occurred.

One woman told defense attorneys she "was a little prejudiced towards guilty" based on media coverage.

"It's been in the news so much and we've heard so much, it's hard not to have" a bias, said the woman, who was dismissed.

Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush denied a defense request to dismiss a capital-murder charge that accuses Malvo of committing terrorism when he allegedly shot Franklin.

In Virginia Beach, Circuit Judge LeRoy Millette Jr. sent the jury home after the prosecution wound up its case in the Muhammad trial. The defense is expected to begin presenting its case tomorrow.

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

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