Young Suspect Found Snipings Laughable, Prosecutors Say
FAIRFAX, Va., (AP) - A defendant in the Washington-area sniper killings, Lee Malvo, laughed as he described some of the shootings in a confession last fall, prosecutors said in legal briefs made public today.
Mr. Malvo's lawyers contend that the police manipulated a confession about his role in the shootings. He and a co-defendant, John A. Muhammad, 42, have been linked to 20 shootings, including 13 deaths, in Virginia, Maryland, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington, the authorities say.
In the documents, prosecutors say that Mr. Malvo chuckled as he recalled the reaction of a boy he had shot at and missed.
"Evidently, Malvo found it amusing that as the errant bullet flew past the boy's head he swatted at the air as if a bee had buzzed too close," wrote a Fairfax County deputy commonwealth's attorney, Raymond F. Morrogh. "Malvo actually smiled and chortled as he recounted this event."
Mr. Malvo's demeanor during the six-hour interview in November is proof that he was not intimidated into confessing, Mr. Morrogh wrote.
Mr. Malvo's lawyers want the confession barred from evidence, arguing that Mr. Malvo made it clear to the police that he did not want to talk about the shootings. A hearing on the confession, which both sides agree is critical to the prosecution's case, is scheduled for April 28.
In a brief filed this month, Mr. Malvo's lawyers argued that the authorities had used "covert and intentionally deceptive actions" to transfer Mr. Malvo to Virginia without the knowledge of the court-appointed lawyers representing him then. They also say that Mr. Malvo asked for his lawyers at the very beginning of the interview but that his request was essentially ignored.
Prosecutors do not dispute that Mr. Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the Nov. 7 interrogation, asked the police, "Do I get to see my attorneys?" and later said, "My attorneys told me not to say anything to the cops until they got there," before confessing. But Mr. Morrogh argued that those statements fell well short of the clear demand for a lawyer needed to stop the questioning.
"At best it was an expression of some reservation in Malvo's mind that he elected to reject by waiving his rights," Mr. Morrogh wrote.
When Mr. Malvo was arrested, in late October, he said nothing to investigators who tried to question him. But when he was transferred to Virginia for prosecution on Nov. 7, he opened up to a Fairfax County homicide detective, June Boyle, and Special Agent Brad Garrett of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"At times during the interview, Malvo laughed or smiled," Mr. Morrogh wrote. "For example, he laughed as he described shooting (F.B.I. analyst Linda Franklin) at Home Depot in the head."
Mr. Malvo used an "X" to sign a waiver to his Miranda rights, which guarantee the right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer. His decision to sign with an "X" demonstrated that he "obviously felt free to decide for himself how he would respond to police questions and requests," Mr. Morrogh wrote.
Defense lawyers suggested that his refusal to sign his own name was a clear signal that he did not want to waive his rights.
Both of the accused men face the death penalty if convicted.