Jury Set for Start of Malvo Sniper Trial

Times Staff Writer

Seven men and nine women who said they could impose the death penalty if the facts warranted it were seated Wednesday to hear the case against sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo.

The 18-year-old Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, 42, stand accused in last year's three-week shooting rampage that left 10 people dead and three wounded in the Washington, D.C., region. Muhammad is being tried separately in Virginia Beach, 20 miles away.

The Malvo trial, which is to get underway with opening arguments today, is expected to last about six weeks.

The members of the jury range in age from 22 to 69 and include 11 whites, four African Americans and one Asian American. Malvo is black. The panel members, who will be identified in court by small, numbered cards worn around their necks, include a teacher, a minister, a claims adjuster, a mechanic, a nurse and a homemaker. Four of the jurors will become alternates once deliberations begin.

Malvo -- wearing a blue sweater, white shirt and tan slacks -- was led Wednesday from his jail cell into the courtroom of Fairfax County Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush though a quarter-mile-long underground security tunnel. He only glanced at the jurors, spending most of his time in court doodling on a yellow notepad.

His attorney, Craig S. Cooley, moved to dismiss all 28 jurors who had advanced into the final-selection round on the grounds that each had said he or she was not opposed to the death penalty if the crime was sufficiently heinous. Roush denied the motion.

The Jamaican-born Malvo is charged in the Oct. 14, 2002, slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47. The cancer survivor and mother of two was shot in the head in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Fairfax, Va.

Although Malvo was 17 at the time of the attack, he could be sentenced to death if found guilty. He faces two counts of capital murder -- one alleging that Franklin's slaying was an act of terrorism, and one that he killed two or more people over a three-year period. In addition to the 10 sniper slayings, Malvo and Muhammad have been linked to shootings in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Arizona and Washington state.

Malvo entered a plea of not guilty Monday. His defense attorneys contend that he was insane at the time of the sniper attacks -- a malleable, insecure teenager in search of a father figure who was brainwashed and manipulated by Muhammad after the two met on the Caribbean island of Antigua in 2000. Raised a Seventh-day Adventist, Malvo converted to Islam, as Muhammad had a decade earlier.

"Mr. Muhammad is every parent's nightmare," Cooley said this week. He added that Malvo no longer looks on Muhammad as a surrogate father and now "has a very different view.... It's an angry position."

Cooley said Malvo's father, Leslie Malvo, would testify on his behalf. Malvo's mother was deported to Jamaica in December, more than two years after sneaking into Florida with Muhammad's help. It was not clear whether she would be allowed to attend the trial.

In building an insanity case, Cooley must confront the impact of substantial evidence against his client. Malvo had talked freely to authorities for five hours in his jail cell in Baltimore, reportedly giving detailed descriptions of the sniper shootings. His fingerprints were found on the .232-caliber Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle, equipped with a scope and bipod, that was used in the shootings. And a Montgomery County, Md., police detective identified Malvo's voice on a digital recording of a call made to police during the sniper spree.

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