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AMERICAN MORNING

D.C. Sniper Case

Aired October 10, 2003 - 07:11   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Lawyers for sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo say they will use an insanity defense when Malvo's murder trial opens up next month. Malvo's lawyers say the teenager was indoctrinated by the other sniper suspect, John Allen Muhammad. Muhammad was 41 years old at the time of the shootings. Malvo was 17. Ten people were killed during the shooting spree in the D.C. area last year.
Indoctrination, so says the defense, is a form of mental illness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG COOLEY, MALVO DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This case is so bizarre in its facts, and the degree of indoctrination is so significant in this case, that we would be remiss in our responsibilities if we failed to put that issue forward for a jury to make a determination of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

"Washington Post" reporters Sari Horowitz and Michael Ruane have just published an account of that case. It's called, "Sniper." They're back with us here on AMERICAN MORNING live in D.C.

Good morning to both you, and thanks for coming back with us.

SARI HOROWITZ, CO-AUTHOR, "SNIPER": Good morning.

MICHAEL RUANE, CO-AUTHOR, "SNIPER": Good morning.

HEMMER: I know you're not jurors, but, Sari, you've seen a lot of this evidence. Is he insane?

HOROWITZ: Well, that's a good question. You know, Lee Malvo's attorneys are stuck with a confession, a very detailed, chilling and incriminating confession that we write about in our book, "Sniper." And for several weeks, his attorneys have hinted that he was under the command and control of John Muhammad and that indoctrination was a form of mental illness.

So, it really doesn't come as a surprise to most people here that his attorneys have gone for this indoctrination insanity defense, because it's really what they've got to go on. They don't really have much more.

HEMMER: Michael on this whole word of indoctrination, do you see it? RUANE: Well, you know, Malvo was a poor Jamaican teenager when he met John Muhammad. He had very -- hardly any adults in his life. Muhammad swaggered into his life with stories of the first Gulf War in which he had served. He was a tall, handsome, kind of swashbuckling, enchanting man, and he definitely held sway over the boy.

HEMMER: Sari, could Malvo get away, though?

HOROWITZ: Well, you know, it's going to be up to the jury to decide whether he was indoctrinated and whether that indoctrination rises to the level of insanity. And the key legal standard will be: Did Malvo know the difference between right and wrong, and did he understand at the time of these attacks what was going on, what was taking place and what he was doing?

HEMMER: Michael, prosecutors are also saying this is a late- blooming insanity defense. Are there any clues right now that you may have as to how they will defend this -- or fight against this, rather?

RUANE: The prosecutors.

HEMMER: Yes.

RUANE: Well, yes. Bill, these are horrific crimes. The suspects, the alleged suspects were not that far from their victims. They were less than 50 yards, we believe. Three of the gunshot wounds were awful, horrific head wounds. The suspects, we believe, could clearly see the results of what they were doing to people.

And Malvo, according to his confession, laughed in one case in which a landscaper was shot, staggered away clutching his chest, while his lawn mower continued on in one direction. And there are flickers of conscious in Malvo in his statements to the police.

HEMMER: Sari, looking forward, do we expect -- or do you expect, rather, a similar plea on behalf of Muhammad?

HOROWITZ: Well, it's interesting. There was a real setback for the defense yesterday with regards to Mohammad, because the defense team, Greenspun (ph) and Jonathan Shapiro (ph), had experts, doctors, talk to Mohammad for hours, trying to get his background in mental health. Ad the problem was that Muhammad would not talk to the experts for the prosecution, and the judge warned that if he did not talk to the mental health experts for the prosecution, the defense team could not bring in their own experts. He would not talk to them yesterday. The judge said, OK, no experts from the defense team.

It's a critical setback for the team, because if he's convicted, they will not be able to bring up mental health questions in the sentencing phase.

HEMMER: Thanks for coming back, both of you, the authors of "Sniper," Sari Horowitz and Michael Ruane live in D.C. Appreciate it.

HOROWITZ: Thank you.

RUANE: You're welcome.

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