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Jury convicts Malvo of sniper murder

Teenager could get death penalty or life without parole

From Mike M. Ahlers
CNN

The conviction makes Lee Boyd Malvo eligible for the death penalty.
The conviction makes Lee Boyd Malvo eligible for the death penalty.

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A jury found teenager Lee Boyd Malvo guilty on all three counts in the Washington sniper killings.
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Lee Boyd Malvo's case goes to the jury. CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports.
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MALVO: WHAT'S NEXT
A look at the verdicts against Lee Boyd Malvo and possible punishments:

VERDICTS
Terrorism
• Guilty

Capital murder
(Killing more than one person in a 3-year period)
• Guilty

Use of a firearm in the commission of a felony
• Guilty.

POSSIBLE PENALTIES:
• Terrorism is punishable by either death or life without parole.
• Capital murder is punishable by either death or life without parole.
• Use of a firearm has a mandatory three-year sentence.
YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
Lee Boyd Malvo
Murders
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Crime, Law and Justice

CHESAPEAKE, Virginia (CNN) -- Lee Boyd Malvo was found guilty Thursday of killing a woman during last fall's sniper shootings that terrorized Washington, D.C., and outlying areas of Virginia and Maryland.

Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, could face the death penalty. He had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The jury deliberated about 13 hours over two days before finding Malvo guilty of terrorism and capital murder in the October 14, 2002, killing of FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot in Falls Church, Virginia. Malvo also was found guilty on one count of using a firearm in commission of a felony.

Franklin was one of 10 people killed in the sniper attacks. Three others were wounded.

The same jury of eight women and four men will begin hearing testimony Friday to decide whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The firearms charge carries a mandatory three-year sentence.

Dressed in a cream-colored sweater with a yellow shirt underneath, Malvo showed no sign of emotion when the verdict was read.

The 18-year-old Jamaica native was never asked to rise for the verdict and remained seated throughout the proceeding.

Last month, a jury in nearby Virginia Beach convicted Malvo's partner in the shootings, John Allen Muhammad, of identical charges in the October 9, 2002, killing of Harold Dean Myers at a gas station in Manassas, Virginia, and recommended the death penalty. Formal sentencing is set for February 12.

Malvo's jury rejected defense arguments in the five-week trial that the defendant was indoctrinated by Muhammad, 42, a Gulf War veteran who befriended Malvo when he was 15, assumed the role of father, and then schooled him on weaponry and military tactics.

Malvo's attorneys argued Muhammad brainwashed Malvo with anti-American and racially charged rhetoric, and molded him into a "child soldier" by isolating him from other people, exposing him to violent videos and computer games, and controlling his diet, sleep, personal hygiene and reading material.

Two psychiatrists called by the defense testified that years of abuse and neglect by his mother and the persuasive techniques used by Muhammad left Malvo with dissociative disorder -- a disruption of the integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity or perception of the environment.

The mental illness rendered him incapable of telling right from wrong, they said.

"Did he know right from wrong?" defense attorney Michael Arif asked the jury. "Right was what John Muhammad said was right and wrong."

Prosecutors came armed with their own experts and depicted Malvo's insanity defense as a "smoke screen."

They said Malvo was aware his actions were wrong and conducted his sniper missions with cool calculation and a studied indifference to his victims' pain.

Malvo's childhood neglect and abuse was not an excuse, they said.

"A hard life is not a mental disease," prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. told the jury.

"It is a smoke screen for the real issue here: October 14, 2002, when he sighted that rifle across that highway and shot Linda Franklin in the head, did he know it was wrong? Members of the jury, we submit there is no doubt ... but that he did know it was wrong."

Coached to take blame?

The snipers' Bushmaster .223 rifle and their grungy 1990 Chevrolet Caprice were the crucial pieces of evidence in the Muhammad case.

The key evidence in the Malvo case was his tape-recorded confession to police.

In the interview made 14 days after his capture, Malvo admitted to being the triggerman in several of the sniper shootings, including that of Franklin. But he remained silent about who was responsible for others.

But in meetings with defense psychologists this year he recanted the confession, claiming he had been trying to spare the life of Muhammad.

Muhammad had coached Malvo to "self-destruct" and take the blame, defense experts said.

Malvo also took the blame because he felt responsible for the "failure of the mission" because he fell asleep while on lookout the night of their capture, psychologist Dewey Cornell testified.

Malvo told mental health experts that he was the triggerman in only two shootings that authorities in several states have associated the pair with: the February 14, 2002, killing of Keenya Cook in Tacoma, Washington, and the October 22, 2002, death of Ride-On bus driver Conrad Johnson in Aspen Hill, Maryland.

Arif argued the confession tapes illustrated the extent of Malvo's brainwashing.

"Why would he make military references in the confession if not for John Muhammad?" Arif asked the jury. "That is not conversation from a 17-year-old kid from Jamaica."

Arif asked the jury to find Malvo not guilty by reason of insanity, or of first-degree murder, a crime not punishable by death.

"Lee was not the shooter," Arif said. "He was a pawn molded like a piece of clay to John Muhammad, and I would ask that you return one of those two verdicts."

Prosecutor Horan told jurors the evidence pointed to Malvo being the shooter.

"I waited in vain for the defense to tell you how this defendant's DNA got all over that weapon," he said.

"There is no explanation for that. How come Muhammad's cheek did not get on the receiver of that weapon? The simple explanation is the shooter was this defendant."

The Malvo trial also provided new details about the apparent motive for the sniper shootings.

Prosecutors in Muhammad's trial alleged he planned the sniper shootings to seek revenge against his wife, who had won custody of their three children and moved to Bowie, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C.

Defense psychologists testified Malvo told them Muhammad not only wanted to regain custody but also wanted to get $10 million to create a black utopia in Canada populated by 70 boys and 70 girls who had been unexposed to racism.


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