Jury convicts Malvo of capital murder

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CHESAPEAKE, Va. — A jury of eight women and four men convicted Lee Boyd Malvo of capital murder yesterday for his role in last year’s Washington-area sniper killings — bringing the teenage defendant one step closer to a death sentence.

After deliberating for a little more than 13 hours, the jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts for the Oct. 14, 2002, slaying of Linda Franklin, 47, in the parking garage of a Home Depot in Falls Church.

Malvo, 18, could be executed for committing a murder in an act of terrorism and for being a serial killer who committed more than one murder in a three-year period. He also was convicted of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, which automatically carries a sentence of three years in prison because of his juvenile status.

The teenager hunched over the defense table and exhaled as the clerk of the court read the verdicts at 5:35 p.m. He otherwise exhibited no emotion, appearing as aloof and distracted as he has for most of the six-week trial.

By rendering the guilty verdicts, the jury rejected the insanity defense that Malvo was brainwashed by the convicted mastermind of the attacks, 42-year-old John Allen Muhammad. The three-week shooting rampage left 10 persons dead and three wounded in the Washington area. The verdict also indicated that the jury felt Malvo was the triggerman in at least two of the killings.

The jury took twice as long to convict the teenager as the Virginia Beach jury that convicted Muhammad last month on identical charges. The Virginia Beach jurors then took about six hours to recommend a death sentence for Muhammad.

The penalty phase of the Malvo trial begins this morning with further testimony, and is expected to take two to three days. With no court proceedings scheduled next Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, that could mean the jury won’t begin deliberations on execution or life in prison until the week after Christmas.

The defense will try to convince the jury that Malvo possesses redeemable qualities, while prosecutors will argue that he poses an ongoing risk to society and his crimes were so heinous that he deserves to die.

If the jury sentences Malvo to death, it will be a first for a Chesapeake jury. The case was moved to Chesapeake from Fairfax because of pretrial publicity.

As the verdict was read in the courtroom, family members of some of the victims exchanged weary smiles and gentle touches to each other’s arms and shoulders.

“We are extremely pleased with the verdict,” Bob Meyers, the brother of sniper victim Dean Harold Meyers, told reporters outside the courtroom. “We believe that justice has been served.”

The Virginia Beach jury found Muhammad guilty of the Oct. 9, 2002, slaying of Mr. Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station. The Meyers killing was a second murder committed by Malvo, qualifying him as a serial killer.

Mrs. Franklin’s husband, William, and her daughter, Katrina Hanam, smiled as they exited the courtroom.

Also present for yesterday’s verdict were family members of Premkumar A. Walekar, 54, fatally shot Oct. 3, 2002, at a Aspen Hill gas station, and the daughter of Pascal Charlot, 72, killed later that same day on a street corner in the District.

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