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Malvo to use 'insanity' defense in sniper trial

From Mike M. Ahlers

Lee Boyd Malvo listens as his attorneys speak in this courtroom sketch from Thursday's hearing.
Lee Boyd Malvo listens as his attorneys speak in this courtroom sketch from Thursday's hearing.

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Lee Boyd Malvo
John Allen Muhammad
Crime, Law and Justice

FAIRFAX, Virginia (CNN) -- Lawyers for accused sniper Lee Boyd Malvo say their client will use an insanity defense when he goes to trial in November.

Attorney Craig Cooley said that Malvo, 18, was "indoctrinated" by John Allen Muhammad, 42.

Malvo and Muhammad are suspected in the sniper killings of 10 people and the wounding of three others in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., last fall.

They are also suspected or charged in shootings in Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Arizona and Washington state.

"Indoctrination is a form of mental illness," Cooley said. "Indoctrination will certainly be the underlying basis of the plea."

Cooley said, "This case is so bizarre in its facts, the degree of indoctrination is so significant in this case, that we would be remiss in our responsibilities if we failed to put that issue forward for a jury to make a determination."

Notice of Malvo's planned defense has been filed with the Fairfax County Circuit Court, he said.

Cooley said the jury will have four options as it decides the verdict: to find Malvo guilty as charged, guilty of a lesser charge, not guilty by reason of insanity or not guilty of the charges against him.

If he is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be remanded to a psychiatric care facility and would not be released until a court is satisfied he was no longer a danger to himself or to the public.

Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Horan said such a defense will likely lengthen the trial, which is scheduled to begin November 10.

"To prove insanity, you must prove that the defendant didn't know right from wrong at the time of the incident," Horan told reporters outside the courthouse.

"There's simply been no indication that we've had in conversations or in his behavior in jail to indicate he's insane," he added.

Strict diet of honey and crackers

Malvo, a native of Jamaica, was arrested along with Muhammad at a Maryland rest area in the early morning hours of October 24, 2002.

Muhammad posed as Malvo's father, leading the sniper task force initially to refer to Malvo as the older man's stepson. It has since been learned that the two are not related.

Soon after the arrest, Malvo's relatives said there was nothing in his demeanor that would lead them to believe Malvo was capable of violence. Other relatives said that at times he appeared afraid of Muhammad.

They also said Muhammad had Malvo on a strict diet of honey and crackers and that he appeared very thin.

Malvo acknowledged shooting at least two victims, including FBI analyst Linda Franklin for which he is on trial.

A Fairfax County juvenile court judge previously ordered prosecutors to turn over to the defense all statements then 17-year-old Malvo made to investigators in Fairfax County about his alleged involvement in the sniper shootings.

The decision was made at a hearing during which defense attorneys argued they should be allowed to see the statements in which Malvo allegedly admitted to being the triggerman in the October 14 fatal shooting of Franklin.

Malvo is now being tried as an adult in Fairfax County in the sniper killing of Franklin, who was gunned down as she was loading her car outside a Home Depot in suburban Falls Church, Virginia. He could be sentenced to death if convicted.

Malvo was allegedly in the country illegally at the time of the shootings and had a deportation hearing scheduled a month after he was arrested in connection with the string of shootings, federal law enforcement sources told CNN.

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