Jurors hear Malvo, on tape, hoping for chaos, `martial law'

Young sniper suspect laughs, boasts of shooting prowess, denies remorse

Murder trial to resume Monday

November 22, 2003|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- Smug and snickering as he confessed and toyed with interrogators, teen-age sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo boasted of his shooting prowess and declared that he wanted to plunge America into a state of "martial law" during last fall's sniper rampage, according to a taped interview played at his murder trial yesterday.

During the playing of the two-hour audiotape, jurors listened intently as Malvo laughed and said he had no remorse for the shootings that left 10 dead in the Washington area. He said the killings were aimed at creating such turmoil that government officials would cave in to the snipers' demands for $10 million and declare martial law to avoid the economic woes brought about by mass panic.

After predicting that his accomplice, John Allen Muhammad, would be executed, Malvo assumed the same fate for himself: "They will kill me too, oh yeah. But they don't have to make a deal. Right now, I incriminate myself."

The tape, part of a longer interview with Fairfax County Police Detective June Boyle and FBI Special Agent Brad Garrett, was the second taped confession to police played this week.

It capped five days of prosecution testimony and offered some rare insight into the 18-year-old Caribbean-born Malvo and the possible motivations behind the killings that gripped the area in fear last year.

Malvo's statements on the tape are often rambling and disjointed, and at times he contradicts himself. At other moments his remarks, delivered amid giggles and a confident demeanor, border on the absurd.

"The only thing that was coming next was the National Guard," Malvo said on the tape, referring to a state of martial law he predicted would arrive during the climax of the sniper ordeal. "You put a state of military -- well, it's civilian military, weekend soldiers -- who are highly trained. But you put them, you put this side in a state of -- on the military siege to stop someone -- that's bad for the economy. Investors look twice. ... It was going to happen."

During the interview, he espoused to his interrogators a diet of nothing but grapes and asked if the Jamaican Embassy could deliver him a supply of plain raisins to eat.

The jury of nine women and seven men appeared engrossed as they listened and followed along with a typewritten transcript. Leaning over, Malvo also could be seen turning pages, and he also held his head in his hands off and on.

Sometimes Malvo was measured in his speech, sometimes he spoke in a staccato fashion. Sometimes he answered questions cryptically, sometimes refusing to answer and other times offering a seemingly unrelated response.

`Why make a deal?'

He said he did not want to "make a deal with the devil. Why make a deal? You still have me in chains. How do I know you are going to free me? ... Make a deal and locked up forever... Just that's the consequence of failure: death."

Many of his statements contained contradictions. For example, when a detective asked if he is guilty, he said no. He spoke of unspecified "phases" in the operation, of having been in "cars where cops and the windows open and they didn't know where I was" and of his ability to "hit you with metal sights from 300 yards away."

Outside of court, Malvo's lawyers pointed out that their client's statement to Fairfax police shows that he was very much under the Svengali-like hold of Muhammad, who was convicted of capital murder at a separate trial this week. They said the statement contains inaccuracies, and they contended that Malvo wrongly took too much credit for the sniper shootings in a self-destructive move to protect a man who brainwashed him.

On the tape, Malvo asks where his "father" is, referring to Muhammad.

FBI analyst testifies

Also yesterday, an FBI analyst testified that he matched Malvo's DNA to that found on three places on the Bushmaster rifle that police believe was used in many of the killings. Brendan Shea also testified that Malvo's DNA was on a note and a Ziploc bag found Oct. 22 last year near the scene of the killing of bus driver Conrad Johnson in Aspen Hill.

His DNA was also found on two bags -- Dole CinnaRaisins and one containing a note -- found in woods near the Oct. 19, 2002, shooting of Jeffrey Hopper in Ashland, Va., Shea told the jury.

But the most sensational piece of evidence yesterday was the tape, which was the subject of a long pretrial hearing this year in which the defense failed to bar it from the trial.

The defense is expected to attack the credibility and propriety of the interview in cross-examination.

Malvo's court-named guardian was not allowed in to the Nov. 7. 2002, interview. Malvo's lawyers are mounting a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity, saying the teen-ager was so indoctrinated by Muhammad that he was no longer himself.

60 defense witnesses

Craig S. Cooley, one of his chief attorneys, said the defense hopes Monday to begin the testimony of more than 60 witnesses "who watched Lee, watched Mr. Muhammad and watched the relationship develop" between them.

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