- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2003

Attorneys for sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo say they are not alone in thinking their client was brainwashed by his older counterpart, John Allen Muhammad.

“When you listen to the efforts to interrogate Muhammad, it’s clear from what the police are saying to him that that’s what they think,” said Craig S. Cooley, one of Mr. Malvo’s attorneys. “The authorities clearly understood the degree of indoctrination in the relationship.”

Mr. Malvo’s defense is that he was “under the spell” of Mr. Muhammad, even to the extent that the multiple confessions he is purported to have made to authorities were the result of his training to take the fall for his surrogate father.

The details of where Mr. Malvo was taken after his capture Oct. 24, how authorities tried to question him and what he said have been revealed in court. Just last week, details emerged when federal prison guards testified that Mr. Malvo boasted of doing many of the shootings and that he had planned to do more.

Though Mr. Malvo’s attorneys are trying to have the testimony suppressed, they say the details prove their theory because Mr. Malvo made the remarks just two days after being separated from Mr. Muhammad, whom he called his father.

“There nothing inconsistent in what came out with him being under the influence of Mr. Muhammad,” Mr. Cooley said.

Prosecutors have scoffed at the under-the-spell theory and at the evidence the defense wants to use to prove the point.

“I’m not certain a jury in the world is going to believe that,” said Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan. “They have to prove that he was under the influence. I don’t have to prove that he wasn’t.”

Mr. Horan said Mr. Malvo’s boasts of shooting a 13-year-old boy to make then-Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose cry prove that he was culpable in the crimes.

“People don’t brag about killing unless they’re fairly satisfied with what they did,” he said.

Mr. Cooley said the defense will use the spell theory during the trial. But one legal expert said the spell defense would be most effective during sentencing if Mr. Malvo were found guilty of capital murder. It then could be used to persuade the jury to sentence him to life in prison rather than death, the expert said.

Mr. Malvo and Mr. Muhammad have been linked to 20 shootings in seven states and the District in the fall. The 13 that were committed in the Washington area in October sent the region into a frenzy.

Mr. Malvo is charged with the shooting Oct. 14 of Linda Franklin, 47, in Falls Church and will be tried in Chesapeake on Nov. 10.

Mr. Muhammad is charged with the shooting Oct. 9 of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, in Manassas and will be tried in Virginia Beach on Oct. 14.

Mr. Malvo was first questioned by police in Rockville nine hours after his capture and communicated only by hand motions and gestures, authorities said.

Two days later he is purported to have talked at length with two guards at the SuperMax federal prison in Baltimore. On Nov. 7, he told a Fairfax County detective that he had done several of the shootings, laughing at times about the matter, authorities said.

Prosecutors do not plan to use Mr. Malvo’s nonverbal communication from Oct. 24 in the trial. But Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jane Maroum Roush has allowed the Nov. 7 confessions to be used as evidence.

The judge said last week that she will rule by the end of August on whether to allow Mr. Malvo’s admissions to the SuperMax guards.

Although Mr. Malvo, 18, has revealed himself through the purported confessions and his behavior in court, Mr. Muhammad, 42, has given away nothing.

No details of his conversations with authorities have come to light, and if his demeanor in court is any indication, he said little in interrogations.

Mr. Muhammad has maintained an expressionless face through several hearings, always looking straight ahead unless he confers with his attorneys.

Mr. Malvo has been a wide-eyed contrast, showing emotion and looking around the courtroom at times.

Prosecutors in Mr. Muhammad’s case want to prove that the former military man was the “instigator and moving spirit” behind the shootings.

They have argued that even if Mr. Muhammad did not pull the trigger in Mr. Meyer’s shooting, his control over Mr. Malvo is a capital crime under the state’s antiterrorism statute, which was designed after the September 11 attacks to target “evil masterminds” such as Osama bin Laden.

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