Posted 9:35pm November 13
by Vanessa Maltin
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
As the prosecution rested its case against sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad, co-defendant Lee Boyd Malvo entered a plea of “not guilty” before Judge Jane Marum Roush in Chesapeake, Va., Monday, for the slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot store on Oct. 14, 2002.
While the two trials are occurring simultaneously only 15-miles apart, the substance of the two proceedings will be drastically different — a contrast that was apparent in the initial hours after the arrests.
While Muhammad denied any responsibility for the shootings, Malvo willingly spoke in detail to police about the three-week shooting spree that claimed 10 lives in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Malvo’s comments, including a taped interview with Fairfax County Police, will be among the prosecution’s prime evidence in the trial that began Monday with jury selection.
With a confession of guilt on tape, Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney, Robert F. Horan Jr. expects to finish examining his witnesses in just five days. Blaming Muhammad for brainwashing Malvo, the defense faces the more difficult and demanding task of attempting to convince the jury that Malvo’s taped confessions were lies from a temporarily insane teenager.
After the first day of jury selection, the defense confirmed they had subpoenaed both co-conspirator John Allen Muhammad and his ex-wife, Mildred Muhammad, in hopes of proving that the co-defendant used his controlling nature to compel Malvo to participate in the deadly shootings.
While attorneys are unsure if John Allen Muhammad will appear, they feel that his ex-wife will be able to thoroughly dramatize his manipulative manner as a parent — as Malvo saw him as a father figure.
Jury questioning began Monday afternoon, by attorneys asking potential jurors if they would contemplate an insanity defense and if they would be able to equally consider mental health evidence with direct testimony.
Cara DeVito, a certified specialist of appellate law in California, said insanity defense cases are rare and very difficult to win. Referring to the M’Naughten rule, which instructs juries on the rules for mental illness, she said that while most juries have no problem using insanity, most don’t understand how to.
“If the defendants knew what they were doing was wrong then they are not insane,” DeVito said. “The fact that Malvo and Muhammad were in hiding and fled from the scene of their crimes implies they knew what they were doing. Flight implies a consciousness of guilt.”
After two days of selection, the lawyers cut the jury pool down to 28. Of the remaining group, 10 are white women, 10 are white men, five are black women, two are black men and one is an Asian man. Before the final 12 — plus four alternate jurors — are selected, each side will be able to dismiss six of the prospective candidates.
Opening statements are set for Thursday morning. Malvo’s trial is expected to last five to six weeks.