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Trial gets under way for teen sniper suspect

A prosecutor said Thursday that Lee Boyd Malvo, left, and John Allen Muhammad acted as a team in the sniper killings.
A prosecutor said Thursday that Lee Boyd Malvo, left, and John Allen Muhammad acted as a team in the sniper killings.

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Lee Boyd Malvo
John Allen Muhammad
Crime, Law and Justice

CHESAPEAKE, Virginia (CNN) -- Sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo told investigators he and his co-defendant acted as a team in last year's Washington-area killing spree, a Virginia prosecutor told jurors Thursday as Malvo's capital murder trial started.

In opening statements, Commonwealth Attorney Robert Horan quoted Malvo as saying, "We were a team, team, team, team."

Malvo, 18, is on trial in the October 14, 2002, shooting death of Linda Franklin at a store parking lot in Falls Church.

He faces the charges of killing Franklin in the commission of an act of terrorism, the killing of more than one person in a three-year period and unlawful use of a firearm during the crime.

Closing statements began Thursday in the trial of co-defendant John Allen Muhammad in nearby Virginia Beach. (Full story)

Because some of the same evidence is needed in both cases, witnesses will not start taking the stand in Malvo's case until Monday, Horan said.

Horan began his opening statements by describing the arrest of Muhammad and Malvo at a Maryland rest stop. Authorities found a Bushmaster .223 rifle in the trunk and modifications to a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice that allowed it to be used "as a killing machine," he said.

"One was a spotter; one was the shooter," Horan said.

Horan called the killings, which left 10 people dead and three wounded in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, an "incredible scheme to coerce and intimidate the government into paying them $10 million."

Testimony in Muhammad's case has linked both defendants to various Washington-area killings. Investigators said DNA evidence indicates Malvo pulled the trigger in many of them.

Malvo's attorneys will try to convince a jury that Muhammad, 42, brainwashed their client.

"He's very young. He is frankly, in terms of maturity, probably about two years behind his age," defense attorney Craig Cooley said Wednesday.

"You should have seen him when Mr. Muhammad took him in -- he was much smaller. That probably made him that much more of a target and that much more vulnerable."

A jury of nine women and seven men, four of them alternates, will hear the case. The jurors range in age from 22 to 58, and include 11 whites, four African-Americans and one Asian-American.

Malvo and Muhammad are the first defendants charged under a Virginia anti-terrorism law, which was passed after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The law makes a defendant eligible for the death penalty if he or she committed a murder that was intended to intimidate the public. The law was passed after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Malvo's attorneys subpoenaed Muhammad to testify at the teenager's trial but said they do not know whether he will cooperate. They also subpoenaed Muhammad's ex-wife.

Three of Malvo's family members will testify, his attorneys said Wednesday.

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