- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 14, 2003

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Prosecutors in the capital-murder trial of Lee Boyd Malvo are expected today to begin presenting testimony by mental-health authorities challenging the sniper suspect’s insanity defense and by survivors who will identify the defendant as their attacker.

This rebuttal testimony, which is expected to last about a day and a half, will mark the near completion of the trial as it enters the sixth week. After the prosecution’s rebuttal and closing arguments by both sides, the case could go to the jury by Wednesday afternoon.

The prosecution’s two mental-health professionals are expected to contradict psychiatrists for the defense who testified last Wednesday. They said Mr. Malvo, 18, was legally insane during last year’s sniper spree because convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad, 42, brainwashed him.

This brainwashing, they said, caused Mr. Malvo’s emotions to completely shut down and his identity to meld with Muhammad’s.

Prosecutors will also put two survivors on the witness stand either today or tomorrow to show that Mr. Malvo lied to defense psychiatrists after confessing to police. In his audiotaped confession, the teenager admitted to being the triggerman in at least eight attacks, including the killing of Linda Franklin for which he now stands trial.

Mr. Malvo faces the death penalty if convicted on either of two counts of capital murder for the Oct. 14, 2002, slaying of Mrs. Franklin, 47, outside a Falls Church Home Depot. One count falls under Virginia’s new antiterrorism law, the other under a serial-killer law.

A Virginia beach jury last month recommended that Muhammad be executed for his role in the Oct. 9, 2002, shooting death of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station.

Prosecutors in the Malvo case will call Paul LaRuffa, 55. He will identify Mr. Malvo as the gunman who on Sept. 5, 2002, shot him six times outside his Clinton, Md., restaurant before stealing his laptop computer and more than $3,000.

Prosecutors characterize the attack as an attempted murder, and say the defendant tried to minimize the crime when describing the robbery to defense psychiatrists.

Muhammad Rashid, 32, will identify Mr. Malvo as the assailant who shot him in the stomach Sept. 15, 2002, as he closed the Brandywine liquor store at which he worked. Mr. Malvo did not mention the shooting during more than 50 hours of interviews with defense psychiatrists.

Mr. LaRuffa and Mr. Rashid identified Mr. Malvo when testifying in the Muhammad trial.

What remains unknown is whether the defense will rest its case today as expected and permit the prosecution to begin the rebuttal.

Craig S. Cooley, a lead attorney on Mr. Malvo’s defense team, said Thursday the defense did not plan to call more witnesses and was prepared to rest after presenting the jury with a description of the comparative height and weight of Mr. Malvo and Muhammad.

The comparison comes in lieu of an appearance in court by Muhammad, who invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to testify.

The defense attempted to summon Muhammad to the courtroom anyway for a size comparison and perhaps a chance for the jury to see an interaction between him and Mr. Malvo, but the move was blocked by Fairfax County Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush.

The defense team could continue its case today, too. The attorneys had a three-day weekend to study a report by the prosecution’s psychiatrists, which could prompt them to change their trial strategy.

They could also bring back one of their six mental-health experts or call one of the prosecution’s psychiatrists as a defense witness.

The attorneys could also put Mr. Malvo on the witness stand, though that is considered unlikely because he would face a grueling cross-examination by Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. By testifying, Mr. Malvo could also jeopardize his case in future murder trials.

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