- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — The jury began deliberations yesterday in the capital murder trial of Lee Boyd Malvo after closing arguments in which prosecutors called the defendant’s insanity defense a ruse.

“It’s a smoke screen for the real issue here,” said Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr.

The trial featured conflicting testimony by mental health experts about whether Mr. Malvo was legally insane during the October 2002 Washington-area sniper spree and whether he knew the difference between right and wrong at that time, which is the legal definition of criminal insanity in Virginia.

The jury of four men and eight women will continue deliberating today. They are considering the guilt of Mr. Malvo, 18, on two counts of capital murder in the Oct. 14, 2002, killing of Linda Franklin, 47, in the garage of the Home Depot store in the Seven Corners area of Fairfax. One count falls under Virginia’s new antiterrorism law and the other under a serial-killer law. Mr. Malvo could get the death penalty for both.

Mr. Horan also said Mr. Malvo “sighted that rifle across the highway and shot Linda Franklin in the head. … He knew it was wrong.”

There is no limit on how long the deliberations might last, but Mr. Malvo’s defense team was preparing last night for the sentencing phase of the trial by week’s end.

Fairfax County Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush told jurors that for both murder counts, they must decide on a verdict of not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, guilty of capital murder or guilty of first-degree murder.

A guilty verdict on either of the charges will require the jury to decide whether to recommend a sentence of death, or life in prison without the possibility of parole. If jurors convict Mr. Malvo of first-degree murder, the judge will render the sentence.

In a rambling 90-minute summation, lead defense attorney Michael S. Arif blamed convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad, 42, for the three-week killing spree in October 2002, which killed 10 persons and wounded three in the Washington area.

He said that common sense would lead the jury to believe that Muhammad, a Gulf War veteran and trained marksman, was the rifleman who shot Mrs. Franklin in a dark parking garage at night from 150 yards away on the other side of a highway.

“Who takes a shot like that?” he asked before answering himself. “A man with experience … not a punk kid.”

Mr. Arif said Mr. Malvo was brainwashed, his identity fused with Muhammad’s and was as unable to escape the sniper attacks as the random victims.

He also said Muhammad broke down Mr. Malvo through starvation, a steady diet of vitamins, a strict exercise routine and by repeatedly showing him violent movies and video games, and indoctrinated Mr. Malvo into Muhammad’s quixotic religious and political beliefs.

Mr. Arif showed the jury a photograph of a baby-faced, 14-year-old Mr. Malvo wearing a khaki school uniform. The photograph was taken in Mr. Malvo’s native Jamaica just months before he met Muhammad.

“He could have no more separated from John Muhammad than you can separate from your shadow on a sunny day,” Mr. Arif said.

Acknowledging to jurors that he was on the verge of melodrama, Mr. Arif motioned to his client and said, “The last victim of John Muhammad sits at the defense table today. That is the last victim. That is the last victim.”

He implored the jury to find the teenager not guilty by reason of insanity, or to at worst convict him of first-degree murder, which would spare Mr. Malvo the possibility of a death sentence.

“Adding another life to that pile of death doesn’t solve anything,” Mr. Arif said. “It will not bring anyone back. It will just be revenge.”

The prosecution’s more-organized 45-minute summation included graphic photographs of dead sniper victims and the audio recording of Mr. Malvo confessing to the crimes to investigators.

On a large screen near the jury box appeared a picture of Mrs. Franklin sprawled dead in a parking lot with a gunshot wound to her head.

Her husband, William Franklin, was in the courtroom but stared straight ahead and didn’t look at the screen. Her daughter, Katrina Hanam, pressed her face against the shoulder of the man sitting next to her.

Mr. Malvo sat quietly at the defense table, sucking on the tip of his index finger.

“The killing of Linda Franklin, no matter how you carve it up, was a willful, deliberate and premeditated killing,” Mr. Horan said.

He also said the motive of the random attacks was greed.

“They killed all these people essentially for money,” Mr. Horan said. “They wanted to leave enough bodies out there that the government would pay attention to them and pay them money.”

The evidence shows that Mr. Malvo wrote the two ransom notes demanding $10 million to stop the killings, he said.

Mr. Horan told the jury that “common sense” pointed to Mr. Malvo’s guilt and that only the shooter could have provided the details that Mr. Malvo gave when confessing to at least eight of the shootings, including the killing of Mrs. Franklin.

Mr. Malvo later recanted his confession in interviews with mental-health experts, saying he was the spotter not the gunman for all but one of the sniper attacks.

In his confession to police, Mr. Malvo said his original target was Mr. Franklin, but that he was moving too much so he focused on Mrs. Franklin because she was standing still. The story matched Mr. Franklin’s testimony of what he and his wife were doing before the shooting.

“He said he shot her in the head,” Mr. Horan said. “That’s what he intended to do.”

Mr. Horan also matched the confession tape and photographs to show Mr. Malvo was the triggerman in a half-dozen other shootings, including the Oct. 9, 2002, killing of Dean Harold Meyers at a Manassas gas station.

To convict Mr. Malvo of the serial-killer charge, the jury must determine that he was the triggerman in the killing of Mrs. Franklin and Mr. Meyers, meeting the criteria of two murders in a three-year period.

It doesn’t matter who the triggerman was to convict on the terrorism charge, because it states that anybody involved in a terrorism plot is guilty of a capital crime.

Mr. Malvo also is charged with using a firearm in the commission of a felony.

A Virginia Beach jury last month recommended the death sentence for Muhammad for killing Mr. Meyers.

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