Sniper Malvo sentenced to life without parole

CHESAPEAKE, Virginia (CNN) — A Virginia judge Wednesday formally sentenced Lee Boyd Malvo to life in prison without parole for his role in the October 2002 Washington-area sniper killings.

Malvo, 19, was convicted December 18 of capital murder, terrorism and weapons charges in the shooting death of Linda Franklin, an FBI analyst gunned down outside a Home Depot in Falls Church, Virginia, on October 14, 2002.

Franklin was one of 10 people killed and three wounded in the sniper attacks that gripped the capital and its suburbs that month. Malvo admitted taking part in the shootings, but his lawyers argued he was brainwashed by convicted accomplice John Allen Muhammad. Muhammad, 43, was sentenced to death on Tuesday in Manassas, Virginia.

By law, the judge in the Malvo trial, Jane Marum Roush, could not increase the penalty to death.

Malvo’s attorneys argued Muhammad brainwashed Malvo with anti-American and racially charged rhetoric, and molded him into a “child soldier” by isolating him from other people, exposing him to violent videos and computer games, and controlling his diet, sleep, personal hygiene and reading material.

During his trial, two psychiatrists called by the defense testified that years of abuse and neglect by his mother and the persuasive techniques used by Muhammad left Malvo with dissociative disorder. The disorder involves a disruption of the integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity or perception of the environment. The mental illness rendered him incapable of telling right from wrong, the psychiatrists said.

Prosecutors came armed with their own experts and depicted Malvo’s insanity defense as a “smoke screen.” They said Malvo was aware his actions were wrong and conducted his sniper missions with cool calculation and a studied indifference to his victims’ pain. Malvo’s childhood neglect and abuse was not an excuse, they said.

The key evidence in the Malvo case was his tape-recorded confession to police. In the interview made 14 days after his capture, Malvo admitted to being the triggerman in several of the sniper shootings, including that of Franklin.

Malvo remained silent about who was responsible for other shootings. Later, he recanted his confession during meetings with defense psychologists, claiming he had been trying to spare the life of Muhammad.

Muhammad had coached Malvo to “self-destruct” and take the blame, defense experts said.

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