- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Jury selection begins today in Lee Boyd Malvo’s capital murder trial — the second trial related to the 13 sniper shootings in the Washington area in October 2002.

Fairfax County prosecutors and defense lawyers will begin questioning 179 potential jurors about their knowledge of and feelings about the sniper case to select a 12-member jury and four alternates. Jury selection is expected to take about a week.

Mr. Malvo, 18, faces two murder charges in the Oct. 14, 2002, slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47, in the parking lot of a Home Depot store in Falls Church. One charge falls under Virginia’s new antiterrorism law, the other under a law against killing more than one person in three years. Both carry the death penalty.

Before jury selection begins, defense lawyers Michael Arif and Craig S. Cooley — who have said they will enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity — will argue that the murder charge under the antiterrorism law be dropped. If they succeed, they would limit evidence in their client’s trial that has caused jurors to weep in fellow sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad’s trial in nearby Virginia Beach.

The argument by Mr. Arif and Mr. Cooley cites Fairfax County Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush’s decision this past summer to move the trial 200 miles south of where the crime occurred. Judge Roush said Northern Virginians were too traumatized by the shootings to serve as fair and impartial jurors.

Mr. Malvo’s attorneys argue that if Northern Virginians could not serve as impartial jurors, then they also could not serve as qualified members of the grand jury that issued the indictment against their client. The defense could have applied that argument to both murder charges, but did not want to start the case again from scratch, Mr. Cooley said.

In their insanity defense, Mr. Arif and Mr. Cooley will try to spare their client the death penalty by convincing jurors he suffered a kind of mental illness from being “under the spell” of Mr. Muhammad, 42.

On that issue, the Malvo defense strategy partially resembles that of the Muhammad prosecution, which has sought to prove that the elder suspect masterminded the three-week sniper rampage in the Washington area last October to extort $10 million from the government.

Mr. Muhammad, whose trial has been under way since Oct. 14, faces two murder charges in the Oct. 9, 2002, shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station. Like his teenage companion, Mr. Muhammad is charged with illegal use of a firearm and conspiracy.

The Muhammad trial, which begins its fourth week of testimony today, has received a wealth of evidence that circumstantially links the elder suspect to various crimes. However, that same evidence — DNA tests, fingerprints, eyewitness testimony — more firmly has established Mr. Malvo’s participation.

Moreover, the teenager has confessed to shooting several victims. His attorneys have said the confessions were intended to impress and protect Mr. Muhammad, whom their client regarded as his father. Their client was 16 when he first met Mr. Muhammad and 17 when the Washington-area shootings occurred.

A native of Kingston, Jamaica, the teenage suspect was raised by a single and often-absent mother. Mr. Malvo met Mr. Muhammad in 2001, when the boy and his mother, seamstress Una James, moved from Jamaica to the island of Antigua. Miss James left her son with Mr. Muhammad in Antigua when she immigrated illegally to Fort Myers, Fla., to find work.

Mr. Malvo briefly joined his mother in Florida in 2001, but he lived with Mr. Muhammad in a homeless shelter in Washington state and later in Louisiana before the pair made their way to the Washington suburbs last year.

Citing pretrial publicity, Judge Roush decided to move the Malvo trial to Chesapeake, an oceanside city of 204,000 residents, of whom 29 percent are black. Fairfax County, by comparison, has 1.1 million residents, of whom 8.6 percent are black.

Both sniper suspects are black.

Chesapeake officials have set aside about $800,000 to cover trial costs.

The court originally summoned 210 jury candidates for the Malvo trial, but excused 31 who were unable to serve because they had moved away or were not available for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last 45 days.

If convicted and sentenced to death, Mr. Malvo would be the fifth teenager to serve time on Virginia’s death row.

• Jon Ward contributed to this report in Virginia Beach.


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