Prosecution challenges psychologist’s testimony in Malvo’s murder trial

As Lee Boyd Malvo trained for their sniper spree, John Allen Muhammad taught him that emotions were the enemy and they should never interfere with his paramilitary mission, an expert witness testified.

Muhammad told Malvo that “if his conscience was bothering him, he should lock it up in a box and throw away the key,” forensic psychiatrist Diane Schetky said Tuesday at Malvo’s murder trial.

Schetky, who interviewed Malvo twice, is expected to testify Wednesday that Malvo, 18, had been so indoctrinated by Muhammad that he could not discern right from wrong, and that he was legally insane at the time of the Washington, D.C.-area shootings in October 2002.

Defense attorneys said another expert, Neil Blumberg, also will testify that Malvo was insane.

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 and challenged the testimony of mental health experts who suggested otherwise.

Psychologist Dewey Cornell of the University of Virginia has testified that Malvo has a dissociative disorder that has given him a distorted view of reality and that he was brainwashed by Muhammad.

But prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. noted Malvo ran away twice from his mother Una James — in late October 2001 and in January 2002 — and chose to be with Muhammad.

Horan also said Malvo and Muhammad had lived together in the United States for only about 10 weeks before Malvo committed his first killing — 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.

“By Feb. 16 he goes out and shoots a woman he doesn’t even know in the face and kills her,” Horan said in cross-examining Cornell. “And it is your testimony he did this because he was indoctrinated by Muhammad?”

Cornell said Malvo’s motivation for the Cook killing was to please Muhammad and that it served as Malvo’s first test in doing Muhammad’s bidding.

Malvo’s attorneys are presenting an insanity defense to capital murder charges in the death of Linda Franklin, who was shot in the head on Oct. 14, 2002, as she and her husband loaded packages into their car. Ten people were killed and three were wounded in the spree shootings.

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.

Comments are closed.