Wednesday, November 12, 2003

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Prosecutors in Lee Boyd Malvo’s capital murder trial will not present in their opening arguments today the rifle used in last year’s sniper attacks because the judge in fellow sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad’s murder trial will not allow the evidence to leave his court until a verdict has been reached.

“It’s just unfortunate their opening statement is the same day as our closing statements,” Prince William County Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. said yesterday in Virginia Beach, where the defense rested its case in the Muhammad trial.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. had told reporters outside the courtroom that his prosecutors “will maybe show [the Malvo jury] the rifle tomorrow and then ship it back” to the Muhammad trial.

Malvo attorney Craig S. Cooley said the defense team’s opening statement will include childhood photographs of their client before he fell under the “spell” of Mr. Muhammad. The defense also will use maps to show Mr. Malvo’s travels from his native Jamaica to the island of Antigua, where his mother abandoned him, and then throughout the United States with Mr. Muhammad.

Yesterday, the clerk of the court swore in 12 jurors and four alternates who will decide the fate of the 18-year-old suspect on trial in the fatal shooting of a woman in Falls Church. The jury and its alternates consist of seven white women, four white men, two black women, two black men and an Asian man.

The jury was culled from a final pool of 28 candidates, 12 of whom were rejected yesterday by prosecutors or defense attorneys. The court, prosecutors and defense attorneys did not make public which side struck which candidates.

The oldest juror is a 70-year-old black man who is a retired teacher; the youngest a 22-year-old white man who is a sales representative.

The other men on the panel include a 69-year-old black retired assistant school principal, a 52-year-old white sales manager, a 47-year-old Asian retired from the Coast Guard, a 41-year-old white minister and a 35-year-old white sheet metal worker.

The female jurors include a 68-year-old black lunchroom monitor, a 47-year-old black mechanic, a 53-year-old white sales representative, a 52-year-old white legal aide, a 45-year-old white registered nurse, a 38-year-old white housewife, a 32-year-old white insurance claims adjuster, a 31-year-old white housewife and a 23-year-old white teacher.

Mr. Cooley said he is pleased with the composition of the jury.

“It appears to have a strong set of citizens,” he said, adding that the Chesapeake jury is more diverse than one chosen in Fairfax County would be. “Diversity is a good way to achieve fairness.”

Fairfax County Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush moved the trial 200 miles south of where the crime occurred, saying Northern Virginians were too traumatized by the shootings to serve as jurors.

Chesapeake has 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. They are accused of October 2002’s sniper rampage, in which 10 persons were killed and three wounded during a three-week spree in the Washington area. They also have been linked to nine other shootings, five fatal, in five states across the country.

Mr. Malvo faces two capital murder charges in the Oct. 14, 2002, slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47, in the parking lot of the Home Depot store in Falls Church — one under Virginia’s new antiterrorism law, the other under a serial-killer law.

Mr. Muhammad, 42, has been on trial since Oct. 14 in Virginia Beach. He faces similar charges in the Oct. 9, 2002, fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station. His defense team rested its case yesterday.

The Malvo defense team’s opening argument is expected to lay the groundwork for an insanity defense that the teenager was indoctrinated into Mr. Muhammad’s “extreme brand of Islam” and brainwashed into becoming the triggerman in the series of random shootings last year.

The prosecution in Mr. Muhammad’s trial also has argued that the elder suspect, a veteran of the Persian Gulf war, manipulated Mr. Malvo into carrying out the killings.

“Every person who is raising a child knows we live in dread that they will be influenced by someone with evil intent,” Mr. Cooley said yesterday. “John Muhammad is the very thing that every parent fears.”

In earlier court proceedings, Mr. Horan has provided glimpses of his argument that Mr. Malvo knew the difference between right and wrong despite his relationship with Mr. Muhammad.

“The question is not if [Mr. Malvo] was indoctrinated. It is whether he was temporarily insane when the crimes were committed,” Mr. Horan told the court when objecting to Mr. Cooley’s questions during jury selection this week.

• Jon Ward in Virginia Beach contributed to this report.

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