Malvo, sniper tangle again

ROCKVILLE — ROCKVILLE -- John Allen Muhammad tangled with Lee Boyd Malvo in an aggressive cross-examination of his former protege yesterday, then erupted in anger at prosecutors who tried to limit Muhammad's questioning in his sniper murder trial.

A day after Malvo offered a startling insider's account of being the junior member of the sniper team that terrorized the Washington area, Muhammad sought to undercut Malvo's credibility by focusing on his insanity plea in his 2003 Virginia murder trial.


"How many experts was it that said you was insane?" Muhammad, 45, demanded of Malvo, 21, challenging claims that Muhammad had brainwashed him.

Malvo replied that two experts testified to the finding. He had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity because of indoctrination, a claim jurors rejected in convicting Malvo of murder.


Muhammad grew exasperated as Montgomery County Circuit Judge James L . Ryan sustained Deputy State's Attorney Katherine Winfree's frequent objections to Muhammad's queries.

"Your honor, she needs to make her objection and sit down," Muhammad shouted after Winfree objected to questions about what Malvo now says was a false confession to all the sniper slayings, given to Virginia investigators shortly after the pair's arrest Oct. 24, 2002.

Malvo said again yesterday that he lied to detectives because of a pact with Muhammad to protect the older man from the death penalty in the event the pair were arrested.

During several hours of cross-examination, Malvo responded evenly and with carefully chosen words to Muhammad's questions.

"At any time did John Allen Muhammad go into that area?" Muhammad asked, referring to the woods near the Bowie middle school where 13-year-old Iran Brown was shot and wounded Oct. 7, 2002.

"No. You sent me in," Malvo coolly asserted.

After Malvo stepped down, prosecutors rested their case and Muhammad began his defense. However, court records show that only three of about two dozen subpoenas have been served.

Muhammad, who has been sentenced to death in Virginia for one sniper murder, is on trial in Montgomery County for six sniper killings in fall 2002.


He has represented himself since firing his public defenders when they contended he was too mentally ill to stand trial. A psychiatrist has said the Gulf War veteran - who previously claimed that former Attorney General John D. Ashcroft was part of a conspiracy to frame him in the sniper shootings - is delusional.

In jarring testimony Tuesday, Malvo said that Muhammad had initially planned for the pair to carry out six shootings a day for one month. Then Muhammad decided to shift to "Phase 2" of the plan, but the two were arrested the day they were to embark on it.

With Baltimore as the hub, Muhammad wanted to shoot a police officer, then set off explosives against other officers and mourners at the cemetery as the funeral was taking place, and plant homemade bombs on buses to kill elementary school children, Malvo testified. With the $10 million they would have extorted from the government to end the killing, Muhammad wanted to set up a 140-child community in Canada to train young terrorists whose actions would ruin the U.S. economy, Malvo said.

Malvo testified that Muhammad turned him "into a monster," taking him from the Caribbean to the United States, filling his head with hatred and violence and training him to shoot.

According to Malvo, Muhammad told him in early 2002 that they would go to Maryland to retrieve his three biological children, whom he had lost in a custody dispute. In July 2002, Muhammad unveiled a murderous mission to accompany that plan.

Malvo told jurors Tuesday that he was so upset over Muhammad's scheme that he spent about two hours in a bathroom playing Russian roulette with a handgun but could not fire the bullet to kill himself. Instead, he broke down and cried, he said.


As Muhammad got Malvo to acknowledge yesterday that he treated him like one of his children, Malvo's voice grew quiet in the witness box.

But in a second round of questioning, Winfree asked Malvo the difference between Muhammad's treatment of him and of his biological children.

"Mr. Muhammad did not use any of his children to murder other people," Malvo responded.

Though Muhammad has rarely gotten personal in his verbal assaults of other witnesses, he used a tone with Malvo that was often demeaning. He stood with his arms folded across his chest as he bore into Malvo, sometimes taunting him when the younger man said he did not know an answer or understand a question.

Muhammad spent more than an hour grilling Malvo about the parts of various weapons and sniper tactics, appearing to be taken aback when the former student missed an answer.

Malvo has appeared cautious but generally confident in the witness box.


Earlier this week, he said he was remorseful for the murders and hoped his testimony would benefit the victims and their relatives, some of whom cried as he matter-of-factly described the Washington-area sniper rampage that killed 10 and wounded three.

"I am proud of what he did today, for himself and for the victims," Carmeta Albarus, the social worker credited with tugging Malvo toward his Jamaican roots and away from Muhammad's domination, said as she left the courthouse. "Am I going to be in his life after today? Until I die."

Over the past two days, she sat in the front row with the defense team that negotiated Malvo's plea to six murder charges and agreement to testify.

Opening his defense, Muhammad yesterday called three witnesses to the stand, two of whom required a translator. All described being near the scene of one of the shootings and hearing a bang, but none gave information that conflicted with the testimony of previous witnesses.

Muhammad complained, as he has several times before, that he was not able to call enough witnesses. The judge has ruled that the defense missed several deadlines for calling out-of-state witnesses. J. Wyndal Gordon, one of three standby lawyers for Muhammad, was still handing out subpoenas yesterday afternoon.

After the witnesses and the jurors were dismissed yesterday, Muhammad, Gordon and Assistant State's Attorney Vivek Chopra got into a shouting match. Muhammad grew frustrated after the judge told him he could not call Gordon as a witness to testify that a detective was manipulating defense witnesses.


julie.scharper @baltsun