Defense attorneys for sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo said that John Lee Muhammad’s control over the teen-ager was so pervasive that it was a form of mental illness.
"This case is so bizarre in the facts, the indoctrination is so severe, we would be remiss if we don't put Mr. Malvo's sanity before a jury," said attorney Craig S. Cooley, following a hearing before Judge Jane M. Roush at Fairfax Circuit Court on Thursday, Oct. 9.
Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. dismissed the defense strategy.
"That's not a mental illness in the book — that's a mental illness that is invented," Horan said, in a press conference following the hearing.
"Mr. Horan is not a psychologist nor a psychiatrist," Cooley said.
Malvo is accused of killing Arlington resident Linda Franklin during sniper shootings in October 2002. Court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. Dewey Cornell has met with Malvo more than 12 times since he was appointed as the defense team’s mental health expert.
Cornell issued a mental health report following his analysis of Malvo, a report that was also provided to the Commonwealth’s attorney’s office. "I received the mental health report of the expert," Horan said. "Nowhere in that report is any suggestion of insanity."
But Malvo's attorneys say a number of mental health experts concur with their opinion — experts who, "not at the expense of Virginia taxpayers," have assisted them in preparing Malvo's defense.
"He was indoctrinated," Cooley said.
In order to prove insanity, Malvo's defense attorneys must prove that he did not know right from wrong at the time of the shootings, or did not understand the consequences of his actions, Horan said.
Malvo's trial is scheduled for Nov. 10 in Chesapeake.
Malvo and Muhammad acted as a team during sniper shootings that left 10 dead and three injured in the Washington area last fall, Horan said.
"It is a late blooming insanity," Horan said.