Sat, Dec 20, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Lee Malvo convicted in sniper case

KILLING SPREE The jury did not believe the claim by the defense that Malvo had been brainwashed by his partner in the crimes, John Allen Muhammad

AP , CHESAPEAKE, VIRGINIA

A jury convicted Lee Boyd Malvo of capital murder in the Washington-area sniper case, rejecting claims that the teenager was brainwashed by John Allen Muhammad into taking part in the three-week reign of terror that left 10 people dead.

The jury now will decide whether Malvo should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole. A jury in nearby Virginia Beach convicted Muhammad last month and recommended he be executed for his role as the mastermind of the killings.

Malvo, who often had an animated expression during the trial, leaned on his elbows at the table with a blank look on his face as the verdict was read. The jury deliberated for 13 hours over two days before rejecting Malvo's insanity defense.

Malvo, 18, was convicted of two counts of capital murder in the Oct. 14, 2002, killing of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, who was cut down by a single bullet to the head outside a store in Virginia. The sentencing phase was to begin yesterday.

Franklin's daughter, Katrina Hannum, cried after the verdict as other people in the courtroom patted each other on the shoulders.

"I'm happy," said June Boyle, the detective who heard Malvo's confession. "Not all the way happy yet, though. We still have sentencing to do."

A man wounded in a shooting Malvo and Muhammad are accused of committing before the sniper spree said he was grateful jurors rejected the defense argument that Muhammad's influence had made Malvo insane. That emotion was echoed by other victims' relatives.

"He was just as responsible," said Muhammad Rashid, who said he saw Malvo moments before he was shot Sept. 15 outside a liquor store. "There is no chance I have any forgiveness for him."

In Malvo's native Jamaica, his estranged father expressed sorrow over the verdict and pleaded for jurors not to impose the death penalty.

"I'm very sad," said Leslie Malvo, who testified for the defense. "I would like them to spare my son's life. He wouldn't do such a thing on his own."

One of the counts against Malvo alleged the killing was part of a series of murders over a three-year period; the other alleged that Franklin's killing was intended to terrorize the public. Malvo and Muhammad, 42, are the first people tried under the post-Sept. 11 terrorism law.

Attorney General John Ashcroft had cited Virginia's ability to impose "the ultimate sanction" in sending Malvo and Muhammad to Virginia for prosecution. Virginia is one of only 21 states that allow the execution of those who were 16 or 17 when they killed. Malvo was 17 at the time of the sniper rampage.

Prosecutors portrayed Malvo as a gleeful and eager triggerman in the killing spree, saying he fired shots from the trunk of a beat-up Chevy while Muhammad plotted the attacks.

Ten people were killed and three wounded during the spree -- most them as they went about their daily routines. A 13-year-old boy was wounded after being dropped off at school. A mother was gunned down as she vacuumed her minivan at a gas station. One victim was mowing grass when he was killed. Another was buying groceries.

Authorities said the killings were part of an attempt to extort US$10 million from the government.

During his closing argument, prosecutor Robert Horan Jr. called Malvo and Muhammad "peas in a pod," motivated by greed and wickedness.

"Their belief, as wild and vicious as it was, was that if they killed enough people, the government would come around" and meet their demand for money, Horan said.

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