Sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo “displayed a pathological loyalty” to John Allen Muhammad and was so brainwashed by him that he no longer knew right from wrong, a defense psychiatrist testified Wednesday.
Malvo “was merged with Mr. Muhammad,” Diane Schetky said at Malvo’s capital murder trial. “He was acting as his proxy … He was like a puppet in his hands.”
Asked by defense lawyer Craig Cooley if Malvo was able to distinquish right from wrong — the legal standard for insanity in Virginia — Schetky said, “I believe he was not.”
Schetky was the second defense witness to diagnose Malvo with a dissociative disorder, a mental illness that involves a distorted view of reality.
Malvo’s attorneys are mounting an insanity defense in the death of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, one of 10 people killed during the three-week shooting spree in the Washington, D.C., area.
Schetky, who twice interviewed Malvo in jail, said Malvo “displayed a pathological loyalty to Muhammad” and confessed to being the triggerman in the killings when police suggested that the shooter would be the one who took the rap for the crimes.
Malvo, 18, has since recanted his confession and said Muhammad was the triggerman in nearly all of the shootings.
On cross-examination, Schetky said she didn’t question Malvo extensively about his specific behavior during the sniper shootings, saying his responses to such questions were robotic and provided little insight.
She also said Malvo felt conflicted about the Oct. 7, 2002, shooting of 13-year-old Iran Brown outside a Bowie, Md., middle school. He thought killing children “was very wrong … but he was complying with the plan.” She said he was “relieved the shot did not kill him.”
As Malvo trained for the sniper spree, Muhammad taught him that emotions were the enemy and should never be allowed to interfere with his paramilitary mission, Schetky said Tuesday.
Muhammad told Malvo that “if his conscience was bothering him, he should lock it up in a box and throw away the key,” she said.
Schetky testified Tuesday that Malvo latched on to Muhammad as a father figure when Muhammad cared for him on Antigua in 2000. After Malvo went to Bellingham, Wash., in 2001 to live with Muhammad, he trained Malvo in fitness and firearms and dissuaded Malvo from believing that killing was “absolutely wrong” by using military analogies and religious language, Schetky said.
Schetky also said Muhammad convinced Malvo that “right and wrong” are artificial constructions that have no real meaning.
Prosecutors argued Tuesday that Malvo was a willing participant, noting that Malvo twice ran away twice from his mother and chose to be with Muhammad.
Prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. said Malvo committed his first killing about 10 weeks after he first ran away — the Feb. 16, 2002, slaying of Keenya Cook in Tacoma, Wash. Malvo has admitted walking up to Cook’s house and shooting her in the face at point-blank range.
Prosecutors are expected to put on their own mental-health expert, who has been meeting with Malvo since before the trial started Nov. 10.
Muhammad has already been convicted of capital murder for his role in the killings, and a jury recommended a death sentence.