Malvo Attorneys Call Brainwashing Theory Backed

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 28, 2003 | Go to article overview

Malvo Attorneys Call Brainwashing Theory Backed


Byline: Jon Ward, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

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. …

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