Psychiatrists Tell Jury Malvo Legally Insane; Sniper Suspect 'Merged with Muhammad'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 11, 2003 | Go to article overview

Psychiatrists Tell Jury Malvo Legally Insane; Sniper Suspect 'Merged with Muhammad'


Byline: S.A. Miller, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Defense attorneys for Lee Boyd Malvo presented expert testimony for the first time yesterday that he was legally insane when he took part in last year's sniper attacks in the Washington area.

Forensic psychiatrists Neil Blumberg and Diane H. Schetky testified that the teenage sniper suspect could not tell right from wrong because his identity was fused with that of convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad.

"He was merged with Mr. Muhammad," Dr. Blumberg said. "He was acting as his proxy. They were one in the same. He was like a puppet in [Muhammad's] hands."

The inability to tell right from wrong is the legal standard for insanity in Virginia, and the psychiatrists' testimony formed the linchpin for Mr. Malvo's insanity defense. They said the defendant was brainwashed by Muhammad, 42, and was not criminally responsible for his role in the October 2002 shootings that left 10 dead and three wounded.

"He's basically a soldier in Muhammad's war against America," said Dr. Blumberg, who interviewed the defendant 20 times. "He doesn't see the enormity of what he is doing, that lives are being lost."

The diagnosis capped 10 days of testimony by defense witnesses and came midway through the fifth week of the trial. Defense attorneys had hoped to rest their case yesterday, but extensive cross-examination by Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. extended the defense case to today.

The defense does not plan to call anymore witnesses and likely will rest this morning.

The case could go to the jury by Monday, after testimony by two mental-health experts for the prosecution to rebut the insanity defense and the presentation of closing arguments by both sides.

Dr. Blumberg and Dr. Schetky testified that Mr. Malvo, 18, suffered the mental disorder specifically during the Oct. 14, 2002, slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47, outside a Home Depot store in Falls Church.

The teenager is being tried on two counts of capital murder in Mrs. Franklin's death - one count under Virginia's new antiterrorism law, the other under a serial-killer law. He also is charged with using a firearm in the commission of a felony.

A Virginia Beach jury recommended that Muhammad be executed for murdering Dean Harold Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station Oct. 9, 2002. Muhammad also was convicted of conspiracy and illegal use of a firearm.

Yesterday, the two psychiatrists provided testimony that detracted from what is perhaps the most damaging evidence against the teenager - his audiotaped confessions to police in which he laughs and chuckles while claiming responsibility for at least eight of the Washington-area shootings.

Both doctors said the defendant often exhibited "frequent inappropriate laughter" and a childlike inability to fathom serious topics. …

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Psychiatrists Tell Jury Malvo Legally Insane; Sniper Suspect 'Merged with Muhammad'
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