Malvo jury listens to tearful testimony of victims' relatives

Anguished accounts given at start of sentence phase

`You are evil,' teen sniper is told

December 20, 2003|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Amid tears and anger, the relatives of those killed in last year's sniper attacks told a jury yesterday how the murders have devastated their lives.

"I am afraid to go to sleep because of the nightmares," said Katrina Hannum, the daughter of slain FBI analyst Linda Franklin. "Almost every night, I have to watch this man shoot my mother in the head."

Yesterday's testimony from relatives of six victims came in the first day of the sentencing phase of the trial. The jurors, who convicted Malvo Thursday of two counts of capital murder, will have the weighty task of determining his punishment, choosing between execution and life in prison without parole.

Hannum, 25, whose mother was shot in the parking lot of a Fairfax County Home Depot store, said the bullet fired by the snipers penetrated deep into her family.

"The day I lost my mother, I lost my brother, too. He can't handle it. He can't be here. I lost my whole family the day I lost my mom," Hannum said as she wept and shook on the witness stand. "My mom was our golden thread who held our family together. She made my family a family, and it's all gone now."

Throughout the testimony of Hannum and others, Malvo, 18, who along with his accomplice John Allen Muhammad conducted the murderous rampage around the nation's capital in October last year, sat emotionless and unflinching.

The day kicked off with the harrowing 911 tape of Franklin's husband, who called police moments after his wife's shooting. "My wife's been shot," a sobbing William "Ted" Franklin said to a police dispatcher.

As the tape recording played, Franklin hunched over in his seat in the courtroom, weeping as he cradled his head in his hands. By the morning's end, capped by Hannum's testimony, all of the jurors had wept, some continuously for nearly two hours.

The eight-woman, four-man jury rejected Malvo's insanity defense Thursday. Deliberations on the punishment might begin as early as Monday afternoon.

Jurors, who also heard testimony from people who knew Malvo when he was growing up in the Caribbean, will hear testimony Monday from Malvo's father, Leslie Malvo. The defense is taking the weekend to decide whether to put a mental health expert on the stand as well - testimony that would be followed by a rebuttal witness for the prosecution.

From her seat in the witness box, Myrtha Cinada, a daughter of sniper victim Pascal Charlot, bored into Malvo with her eyes, and then with her words.

"I would like to say, Malvo, you are evil," she blurted. "You are insane because you took my father's life. Because of you, he did not get a chance to see his great-grandchild. You took his life when that child was only 2 weeks old; that was insane of you. You are evil."

Victim impact testimony, a staple of sentencings in murder cases, is highly potent, bringing home and personalizing traumatic losses, legal experts say.

"The judges, the prosecutors, the attorneys, the people who are presenting the case are supposed to do it in a professional manner," said Annapolis lawyer William C. Mulford II, a former prosecutor. "No matter how skilled an advocate you may be, you are speaking from the mind. [Crime victims] are speaking from the heart."

Defense can do little

There is barely a thing the defense can do with those witnesses, because cross-examination appears cruel. Yesterday, all defense lawyer Craig S. Cooley said to most of the victims' relatives was that he was sorry for their loss.

The jury deliberated for a little more than 13 hours before convicting Malvo. One capital murder count was for multiple killings within three years, and the other, under Virginia's anti-terrorism law, referred to the effort to intimidate the government by seeking to extort $10 million to end three weeks of random killings.

Virginia is in the minority of states that allow execution of people who were under 18 years old when they committed murder. Malvo was 17 when Franklin was killed. Virginia has executed four juvenile killers since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Last month, a Virginia Beach jury convicted Muhammad, 42, Malvo's compatriot, for his role in the sniper plot, which left 10 people dead in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. The defense, not denying that the Jamaican-born Malvo participated in the rampage, contended he was the spotter and not the shooter in most of the killings.

They argued that he was just 15 when he met Muhammad, who brainwashed him and coerced him into taking part in Muhammad's mission of murder.

Yesterday, jurors, who previously heard only how the victims died, heard how they lived.

"He used to leave me little love notes on the mirror - using my $15 lipstick," recalled Denise Johnson, whose husband, Montgomery County bus driver Conrad Johnson, became the final sniper victim when he was shot on a bus. He once had his passengers sing "Happy Birthday" to her, she said.

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