- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Prosecutors in the capital-murder trial of Lee Boyd Malvo called a SWAT team member as their final witness, and defense lawyers began their case with testimony by the defendant’s father.

Lee Northrop, a veteran sniper with the Fairfax County Police Department, looked at a replica of the .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle used in the sniper shootings and said it doesn’t take long to learn how to shoot such a weapon accurately.

Mr. Northrop also said it didn’t take an expert marksman to be able to make a “head shot” on someone from as far as 160 yards, the distance from which police estimated FBI analyst Linda Franklin was shot Oct. 14, 2002, in a Home Depot parking lot in the Seven Corners area of Fairfax.

“With a couple of hours of training, I could probably teach anyone in this courtroom to hit a head target at that distance,” he said.

Mr. Malvo faces the death penalty on two counts of capital murder in the death of Mrs. Franklin, 47, one under Virginia’s new antiterrorism law and the other under a serial-killer law. He also is charged with using a firearm in the commission of a felony.

After the prosecution rested its case, defense lawyers began presenting evidence they hope will convince the jury that Mr. Malvo is not guilty by reason of insanity. They will argue the teenager was brainwashed by John Allen Muhammad and transformed from a boy into an programmed assassin.

Muhammad, 42, was convicted last week on identical capital-murder charges for the fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station and for his role in the three-week sniper rampage in the Washington area in October 2002 that killed 10 persons and wounded three.

A jury in Virginia Beach yesterday recommended that Muhammad receive the death penalty. Prosecutors in that trial and the Malvo trial have tried to link the defendants to multiple sniper shootings to prove the crimes fit the terrorism and serial-killer charges.

Mr. Malvo’s attorneys began building the insanity defense with testimony from members of Mr. Malvo’s family and family friends about the defendant’s early years in Kingston, Jamaica. They described how Mr. Malvo was separated from his father at an early age, beaten regularly by his mother and repeatedly shuffled from guardian to guardian and school to school.

The testimony appeared to lay the foundation for the defense team’s theory that Mr. Malvo was ripe for brainwashing because of the childhood of abuse, neglect and isolation.

The first defense witness to take the witness stand was Mr. Malvo’s father, Leslie, who testified about the early years in Jamaica.

Leslie Malvo, who spoke through an interpreter, wiped away tears and often took long pauses as he recalled teaching his 2-year-old son how to ride a bicycle and play catch. He also described their nightly visits to a neighborhood ice-cream parlor and said his son’s mother, Una James, broke up their home when the boy was 5 and spirited him away.

Leslie Malvo said he took a job on Grand Cayman Island after that, but came back to Jamaica to visit during holidays.

“Lee is my pride son,” he said. “I love him very much.”

Leslie Malvo also said that the boy’s mother cut him off from his son when the younger Mr. Malvo was 10 and that he had not seen him again until a visit on Saturday in the Chesapeake jail.

The jury also heard from Mr. Malvo’s second cousin, Romello Semone Powell, who briefly cared for the defendant as a young boy on one of the occasions when his mother abandoned him. She said the mother regularly beat Mr. Malvo.

Miss Powell said Mr. Malvo’s mother would beat him all over the body, hit him with shoes, pull his hair and yell at him.

Earlier yesterday, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush rejected the defense motion to throw out the case because the state failed to prove the defendant was a “major participant” in last year’s sniper attacks.

“Major participant? You bet your life he is,” Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. told the judge after recounting Mr. Malvo’s confessions to eight of the October 2002 shootings.

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