Judge Sends Malvo Sniper Case to Jury

Independent Record/December 17, 2003
By Sonja Barisic

Chesapeake, Va. -- Jurors must now decide whether Lee Boyd Malvo was a puppet or a partner in the sniper spree that sent panic through the Washington area.

Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush sent the case to the jury Tuesday afternoon after closing arguments. The eight women and four men selected a foreman and were to begin deliberating Wednesday morning.

Malvo, 18, is charged with the Oct. 14, 2002, slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin during a three-week rampage that killed 10 people and wounded three.

His attorneys contend Malvo was temporarily insane because Muhammad's brainwashing made him unable to determine right from wrong.

Lead prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. told jurors Tuesday that Franklin's slaying was deliberate and premeditated, and that Malvo and Muhammad were "peas in a pod," both responsible for the shootings.

He said they carried out the attacks for one reason: to intimidate the government for money.

"They wanted to have enough bodies out there" in the "wild, vicious belief" that the government would pay them $10 million, Horan said.

Horan interspersed his closing argument with snippets of audiotape of Malvo's confession to police and grisly crime-scene and autopsy photos, as some victims' relatives in the courtroom struggled to hold back tears.

Defense attorney Michael Arif finished his presentation by projecting onto a courtroom screen a photo of a menacing-looking Muhammad and telling the jury that Malvo was "the last victim of John Muhammad."

Arif said Muhammad indoctrinated Malvo, who was desperate for a father figure, and found the wrong man to emulate.

"He was perfectly programmed," Arif said.

Arif said the defense does not dispute that Malvo was involved in the shootings, but punishing Malvo would accomplish nothing.

"Adding another life to that pile of death does not solve anything," Arif said. "It does not bring anyone back. It's just revenge."

The jury must decide that Malvo was the triggerman in Franklin's death for him to be eligible for the death penalty on one of two capital murder counts. The second capital murder count, which alleges Franklin's death was an act of terrorism, does not require that Malvo be the triggerman.

Arif asked the jurors to impose first-degree murder if they reject the insanity defense, saying Malvo was not the triggerman and was not the one who wanted to extort the government.

"He was a puppet, molded like a piece of clay by John Muhammad," Arif said.

Horan, however, urged the jury to accept Malvo's confession to police last year at its word. Malvo later told mental health experts he confessed to the shootings to protect Muhammad.

Horan scoffed at Malvo's backtracking, saying it came only after months of prodding from "the mental health crowd."

Horan also pointed to a letter Malvo wrote to another inmate in August, several months after the defense says he had realized he was manipulated by Muhammad.

In the letter, Malvo tells the inmate to look for ways to escape and says he would be doing the same if he were not segregated from the general population in jail.

"They'll tell you that is the new Malvo. Sounds like the old Malvo. The fact of the matter is ... that's the real Malvo," Horan said.

Muhammad, 42, was convicted of capital murder last month in Virginia Beach. The jury recommended he be put to death for the slaying of Dean Harold Meyers at a northern Virginia gas station.

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