In the fall of 2003, Virginia attorneys prepared for the trials of John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo. Prosecutors intended to sentence them both to the ultimate punishment.


Speaker 1 (00:00:00):

Welcome to Monster: DC Sniper. A production of iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are solely those of the podcast author, or individuals participating in the podcast and do not represent those of iHeartMedia, Tenderfoot TV, or their employees. This episode includes testimony and argument from court trial transcripts, read by voice actors. Portions of these transcripts are excerpted for the purposes of this podcast, listener discretion is advised.

Speaker 2 (00:00:31):

Good evening, one of the most terrifying crimes in recent years left 10 people dead, the nation’s capitol, and two neighboring states in a frenzy of fear for three weeks. The sniper case, a year ago. Today, the first of two suspects in the case went on trial, and the opening day was surreal.

Speaker 3 (00:00:49):

I remember feeling very nervous prior to both trials. Prior to the trial, we were told we weren’t allowed to speak to other witnesses, but then afterwards, I remember being in a room with family members who’d lost people. That was so sad, so horrific. I remember speaking to, I believe Lori Rivera’s husband.

Speaker 4 (00:01:12):

I was just still angry. I don’t know. I just want to do something, and be over with. And make them pay for what they did.

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Speaker 4 (00:01:23):

To go testify, it was not the problem. The real problem was just to go and see them right in front of you. That was the hard part. It was hard to be there in the same room with them. It was hard to see them over there. It was hard to see their faces. They don’t have no remorse, at all. Both of them. Not at all. It was normal for them and that’s where it get me. For people like that. I would say, those kinds of people, they don’t deserve to be here.

Speaker 3 (00:02:01):

It just is so horrific to realize that these people are so impacted by the actions of these two cruel people and their lives will never ever be the same. I’m lucky, merrily go along in my life. I do thank God that it wasn’t me, but it’s difficult to remember that on an everyday basis, because humans are not like that. We just get on with our lives, but these people, they think about every day, that they lost the family member because of this totally senseless, horrific act.

Speaker 5 (00:02:35):

There is a ruthless person on the loose.

Speaker 6 (00:02:38):

What unnerves this community the most is the randomness of the murders, ordinary people doing ordinary things.

Speaker 7 (00:02:45):

All that the victims appear to have had in common, each was shot to death by a single bullet.

Speaker 8 (00:02:50):

Be careful. These guys are using weapons that are going to go right straight through our bulletproof vests.

Speaker 9 (00:02:55):

The massive manhunt continues, but police admit they don’t know who, or they’re dealing with, or what their motive might be.

Speaker 10 (00:03:02):

There’s a white van, just went by with two guys in it.

Speaker 11 (00:03:05):

From iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV, this is Monster: DC Sniper. The trials of John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were scheduled to begin in October of 2003. After they were caught, it was decided that the two would be tried in Virginia. At the time, Virginia permitted the death penalty for 16 and 17-year-olds. Prosecutors were hoping to convict both Malvo and Muhammad and sentence them to the ultimate punishment.

Speaker 11 (00:03:39):

Prince William County would prosecute Muhammad for the murder of Dean Harold Meyers, led by attorney Paul Ebert. And Fairfax County would prosecute Malvo for the murder of Linda Franklin, led by attorney Robert Horan, but attorneys for Malvo and Muhammad made an early trial motion to move the cases from those counties.

Mark Petrovich (00:04:00):

Everybody who lived in this area, in the Washington DC area was essentially a victim.

Speaker 11 (00:04:05):

This is Mark Petrovich, one of the lawyers for Malvo’s defense team.

Mark Petrovich (00:04:09):

We all were afraid to be shot at any given time. We all pumped our gas and moved around as we pumped our gas. We all dealt with the fear, the anger, the frustration, just the outrage of the situation. And so anyone who dealt with that would hold a grudge against anyone who’s accused of being involved in it. So we wanted jurors who hadn’t been in the middle, at essentially this big ground zero. We wanted jurors from outside that area to objectively, in an unbiased way, determine what should happen with the case.

Speaker 11 (00:04:43):

Petrovich says transferring jurisdiction and capital cases is very uncommon. But in this case, it was clear that Muhammad and Malvo would not get an impartial jury anywhere near the DC area. And so the motion was approved, and the trials were moved to Virginia Beach and Chesapeake Bay in Southeast Virginia. But Prince William County and Fairfax County were still in charge of putting together the prosecution. And Fairfax police lieutenant Bruce Guth was in charge of assembling the prosecution task force.

Bruce Guth (00:05:17):

We now have Malvo and Prince William has Muhammad. Our jurisdictions are right next to each other. I called a meeting with the ATF, the FBI, Secret Service, to discuss a prosecution task force. We would put all the evidence together in one packet, if you will, for both trials. So if Mr. Ebert needed it for Muhammad, he could grab it. If Mr. Horan needed it for Malvo, he could grab it. It’s hard enough working one murder and to have these 13 shootings just in our area, let alone what else went around the country, we knew it was going to be a monumental task.

Speaker 11 (00:05:56):

Guth says they an empty office building. Within a week they had filled the entire space with dozens of desks, interview rooms and computers for over 50 task force members. They quickly pulled a massive team together and started preparations.

Bruce Guth (00:06:13):

In Fairfax, anything in a blue binder is a murder file. So the blue file thing popped up in my head that for each major thing we need, we’re going to make a blue file. For instance, the Bushmaster .223 rifle. We had a book that had everything you could want about the rifle. There was a blue book made on the Caprice where they got the Caprice, the history of the Caprice, the interview of the guy who sold them the Caprice up in New Jersey. And that guy was a great witness, because Muhammad climbed into the trunk of the car and he thought that was weird.

Bruce Guth (00:06:48):

Said, “I really like this car. Do you mind if I climb in the trunk? “And the guy goes, “Yeah, you can climb in wherever you want. The car is 600 bucks. I don’t care.” So we ended up in this file room with about 80 blue books. We had a file cabinet, probably, I don’t know, 30 yards long.

Speaker 11 (00:07:05):

Over the course of a year, prosecutors collected information and prepared their case. Then come the fall of 2003 the task force moved to Southeast Virginia where the trials were about to begin.

Bruce Guth (00:07:20):

We basically rented out a whole half side of this hotel, had a big taskforce room they wired for computers and phone lines. And now we have to fly everybody in from all over the country into Virginia Beach instead of [inaudible 00:07:34]. It was a monumental task.

Bruce Guth (00:07:38):

We had two trials with 150 witnesses in each trial. After court, we’d meet in Mr. Haron’s suite or Mr. Ebert’s suite and we’d talk about who they want the next two or three days. And then we’d call these witnesses and get them lined up with airplane reservations and tell them where to come. And then we have rooms exed out for them. And then we had to get back to the airport to send them back home, and it worked out really well, amazingly. We didn’t lose anybody and everybody showed up.

Speaker 11 (00:08:10):

John Muhammad’s trial was scheduled to begin first. He was being tried on four counts, two of which were for capital murder. Prosecutors were hoping Virginia law would provide a path to the death sentence for John Muhammad. Here’s Virginia prosecutor, Paul Ebert.

Paul Ebert (00:08:27):

In Virginia, I would call 16 different categories that they can mount to capital punishment. Killing of a minor, robbery, rape, a number of things. But there has to be an underlying predicate before you could get the death penalty, or even charge the death penalty with any success. Strangely enough, in Virginia, if you kill more than one person in three years, that’s a capital case. We had the opportunity to bring in every one of those murders to prove that aspect of trial.

Speaker 11 (00:08:56):

Muhammad was being tried for one count of capital murder in the shooting of Dean Harold Myers on October 9th, 2002. The second capital murder charge came from a new antiterrorism law implemented in Virginia after the events of 9/11. Under that statute, a jury would not have to conclude that Muhammad had actually pulled the trigger to be found guilty, only that he had intentionally terrorized a large population of American people.

Speaker 11 (00:09:25):

This case would be the first use of the law in a criminal trial. Because it was so new, it was possible for the statute to be challenged and potentially overturned. But if found guilty on either count of capital murder, Muhammad would be eligible for the death penalty. The third and fourth counts were for conspiracy to commit murder and illegal use of a firearm, respectively. On October 19th, 2003 Muhammad’s trial began in Virginia Beach.

Bruce Guth (00:09:57):

So, the Muhammad trial starts and they pick a jury and it turns into a zoo.

Speaker 12 (00:10:02):

The first trial for the sniper attacks that left the Washington DC area traumatized a year ago, began with a stunning development. Sniper defendant, John Muhammad suddenly asked to represent himself. The judge said he thought Muhammad was making a mistake, but granted the request anyway, ordering the defense lawyers to stay on as advisors.

Josh White (00:10:20):

One of the really most alarming moments was when Muhammad stood to represent himself.

Speaker 11 (00:10:27):

This is Washington Post Journalist, Josh White.

Josh White (00:10:30):

He had two of the best lawyers possible. Jonathan Shapiro and Peter Greenspun are two of the most experienced trial attorneys in Virginia. They’re the people you want representing you in a capital case. They have an immense amount of experience and had been making the right constitutional arguments and had been preparing for it for a very long time, and he rested the case away from them. We had never heard from Muhammad at that point and he stood up in court and started presenting a case.

Speaker 11 (00:11:02):

Here’s an excerpt from John Muhammad’s opening statement, read by a voice actor.

John Muhammad (00:11:08):

Good evening. I would like to thank the judge for giving me the opportunity to speak. I like reading and learning about words. One of the things I was fascinated by coming into this strange world is three truths, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I always thought it was just the truth. Apparently I was wrong, so I did some checking to find out what is it about these three truths, same thing, but yet they are different.

Josh White (00:11:47):

In an interesting way, it gave you a little bit of insight into how he was thinking. What he essentially presented was logical. He made the argument that no one had seen him do anything, which was true. No one had seen him do anything. No one saw him with the gun except when he was arrested with it in his car.

Josh White (00:12:08):

His argument was he told him an allegory about how his daughter had reached into a cookie jar, or so he thought.

John Muhammad (00:12:19):

I remember an incident when I was in the Caribbean, and my favorite daughter Taliba, she loves chocolate cookies. As I was leaving one day, she said, “Daddy, can I have some chocolate cookies?” And I said, “Sure, I’ll come back. We’ll go to the store and we’ll get some chocolate cookies, but don’t go into cookie jar and get no chocolate cookies until I come back.” She said, “I won’t daddy, I won’t.”

John Muhammad (00:12:52):

So I leave. I come back an hour later. I see my baby daughter out in the yard with cookies in her hand. I am upset now because from what I see, she disobeyed. I got the evidence in her hands. I got her eating cookies. I even got her sister saying she saw her going into cookie jar. So I’m very upset now, because my baby daughter lied to me.

Josh White (00:13:24):

And he blamed her for taking the cookies, but he had not seen it. And it turned out that he was wrong to have blamed her, that she didn’t take the cookies.

John Muhammad (00:13:33):

She was actually putting cookies in the jar. And I didn’t know. I thought Taliba had disobeyed me, but she really hadn’t disobeyed me. She actually got cookies from the store and not out of the cookie jar. I asked her not to take cookies out of the cookie jar and she didn’t, but I was basing that on what I saw. I was basing that on what I guessed at what happened, but I didn’t know that what happened.

Josh White (00:14:07):

And his explanation to the jury was, “How can you hold me responsible for something that no one saw me do?” I think like in any criminal case, when a defendant starts representing themselves, it’s something that their lawyers really don’t want to see. And he stepped into a number of problems for himself.

Speaker 11 (00:14:31):

Bruce Guth says Muhammad’s decision to represent himself was more of a stunt than anything and that stunt cost him any amount of pity he might’ve gotten from the jury.

Bruce Guth (00:14:41):

This is him. He’s cocky, and he’s making a complete joke out of the judicial system. The court room has family members in there of these victims, and he’s basically making fun of them. That’s how cold this guy was. He’s trying to cross-examine people. Oh, it was just a complete zoo. And the judge kept saying, “Use your lawyers”, and the lawyers are mad and they wanted a mistrial.

Speaker 11 (00:15:07):

After making his opening statement, Muhammad began to question witnesses.

Paul LaRuffa (00:15:12):

So talk about crazy circumstances and weird events in your life, I was being questioned by the guy who tried to kill me. He wasn’t the guy that pulled the trigger, but he was the brains behind it.

Speaker 11 (00:15:26):

This is Paul LaRuffa, The victim shot on September 5th, 2002 in Clinton, Maryland. LaRuffa was sitting in his car that night, about to leave his restaurant, when five shots rang out from the driver side, shattering the window and badly injuring his left arm and torso. It had been just over a year since that traumatic event. LaRuffa was dealing with PTSD and was still wearing a brace on his arm. Since he was one of the initial victims in the DC sniper case, he was one of the first witnesses to testify.

Paul LaRuffa (00:15:59):

My fear was that like you see on TV, the lawyer comes right up to the wit…

PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:16:04]

Paul LaRuffa (00:16:03):

Like you see on TV, the lawyer comes right up to the witness box and gets pretty close to you and I said, “That’s going to make me feel really weird.” And they said, “No, you’ll be okay because the judge made a ruling that he can’t do that. He can’t get close to you.” He was 15 feet away and that made me feel better.

Paul LaRuffa (00:16:22):

It was still hard testifying. I had told the story many, many times and it was different telling it in the courtroom. When they called me, I was waiting outside and they call you in and you walk in. Talk about all eyes being on you, couple of hundred people are there, and it is quieter than a church. You could hear a pin drop. And you make the walk from the back door to the front of the courtroom and they swear you in, and they asked me questions.

Paul LaRuffa (00:16:52):

I broke down a little bit when they asked me about being shot. It was a lot more emotional for me than I thought and that was from the prosecution side asking me all those questions. They’re on my side. Now, Muhammad acting in his own defense, he said something initially that was crazy and the judge told him he couldn’t say stuff like that. He said, “I know what it’s like to have my life on the line,” or something like that. And what he was implying was that me being shot and him facing the death penalty was somehow the same. We were both facing death.

Paul LaRuffa (00:17:34):

I didn’t say anything. I probably could’ve said, what are you talking about? You’re crazy. And then he asked me something simple. He asked me if I saw the person’s face who shot me. I said, “No, I didn’t. I didn’t see his face.” And that was it. To this day, it’s just crazily ironic that I don’t know how many people have that experience of being questioned in court by the person who tried to kill you.

Speaker 13 (00:18:02):

The same day that LaRuffa testified, prosecutors also called forensic experts to the stand.

Speaker 14 (00:18:09):

The firearms examiner, named Walter Dandridge, He was the one guy that examined all the bullet fragments and the gun. He’s the one that made all the matches to all the cases. He was so good.

Walter Dandridge (00:18:21):

The whole world was watching and so there was a lot of pressure.

Speaker 13 (00:18:25):

Dandridge presented his findings from the investigation. Forensics had linked all of the bullets from the DC shootings to the same gun. Those bullets also matched the ammunition used by the Bushmaster, found in the blue Caprice.

Walter Dandridge (00:18:40):

Working the evidence and then testifying, it was much more stressful because of the visibility. I was cross-examined by Muhammad when he was acting as his own defense attorney and he didn’t think I knew what I was talking about as far as the handling of the firearm and he was lecturing me on how this firearm worked.

Speaker 13 (00:19:05):

Muhammad only represented himself for one full day.

Speaker 15 (00:19:08):

Eventually Muhammad relented and gave the case back to his attorneys.

Speaker 13 (00:19:13):

He claimed he had a toothache and could no longer represent himself.

Speaker 15 (00:19:16):

But we did get some really amazing moments of hearing him speak and question witnesses. And one of his most effective questions was, did you see me do anything? And the answer was no.

Speaker 13 (00:19:29):

The basis of his argument would ultimately be his official legal defense. That there was no direct evidence linking Muhammad to the crimes. Without a confession or witness who saw him at a crime scene, all the prosecution had was circumstantial evidence.

Speaker 15 (00:19:46):

The problem, I think, ultimately was it was a very strong circumstantial case against him. All of the evidence was in his car, was on the gun, but still no one has ever proven who he killed or didn’t kill. The argument prosecutors made was it didn’t matter who fired the gun, it didn’t matter whose finger was on that trigger. They used some novel legal arguments to show that it was essentially one system that killed. The vehicle was the weapon just as much as the gun was and that it was a team that carried out these crimes.

Speaker 13 (00:20:27):

Records show that the blue Caprice had been seen or identified at a number of the crime scenes. Although neither Malvo nor Muhammad were spotted at those scenes, both of them were found in the car and that implicated them in the murders. Here’s Virginia Prosecutor Paul Ebert, again.

Paul Ebert (00:20:45):

Snipers are not solitary. They would have two or three man teams typically and I wanted a jury to know that right off of the bat. The most important partner of a sniper team is a spotter. They look to make sure no cars are coming. There are a lot of things that the spotters do that aid and abet the actual shooter, and the actual shooting really has an easier job. All those guys are expert shots. The question is, when do you do it and how do you do it?

Speaker 13 (00:21:13):

To demonstrate how the pair operated prosecutors made a full size model of the back half of the Caprice. They showed how the car had been altered and likely utilized to make shooting easier. Here’s Bruce Guth.

Bruce Guth (00:21:26):

We reenacted getting in the back of that Caprice with the backseat in it. We used SWAT guys the same size, and we had them crawl into the back trunk and how would you position yourself and pop the trunk open and put the barrel out through the hole they cut in the car and blah, blah, blah.

Speaker 13 (00:21:43):

Muhammad’s trial in Virginia lasted just over a month. On November 13th, 2003 closing arguments were made by both sides. Attorney Peter Greenspun gave the defense’s closing argument. Here’s an excerpt read by a voice actor.

Speaker 16 (00:22:00):

You may convict John Allen Muhammad on circumstantial evidence alone, which is what prosecutors have sought to do here, effectively. When the Commonwealth relies upon circumstantial evidence, the circumstances must be consistent with guilt and inconsistent with innocence. It is not sufficient that the circumstances proved create a suspicion of guilt, however strong, or even a probability of guilt. The evidence as a whole must exclude every reasonable theory of innocence. So that’s where you get into what I call the gut feelings. I know it, but can’t explain it. This instruction tells you that that is not sufficient to find anyone guilty in a trespass case, but most importantly in a capital murder prosecution. You’re going to have to find your own sense of comfort as far as what that is.

Speaker 13 (00:22:54):

Then attorney Richard Conway gave the prosecution’s closing argument. Here’s an excerpt of that read by a voice actor.

Speaker 17 (00:23:02):

He’s charged with the two offenses of capital murder. He’s charged with conspiracy to commit murder. And he’s charged with using a firearm during the commission of a murder. Yes, in order to convict Mr. Muhammad of capital murder, of killing more than one person in three years, you have to find he was a principal in the first degree. But for the capital murder during an act of terrorism, you don’t have to find that.

Speaker 17 (00:23:28):

We have the same first two elements that Mr. Dean Meyers was killed. No question. That the killing was willful, deliberate, and premeditated. No question. That the killing occurred during the commission of, or attempted commission of, an act of terrorism, and that either he was the principal in the first degree, or someone else was the principal in the first degree, acting in his direction or order. So either way. And I suggest to you that these two, him and Malvo are both principals in the first degree.

Speaker 13 (00:24:02):

Over the course of two days, the jury deliberated for six and a half hours. Judge LeRoy Millette Jr. told jurors that they did not have to find that Muhammad actually fired the gun in any of the killings. He instructed them that Muhammad merely had to be a joint participant to be found guilty. On November 17th, the verdict came back. John Muhammad was found guilty on all counts in the DC sniper shootings. He was also found guilty of carrying out the attacks to terrorize the population. Here’s Virginia Police Lieutenant Bruce Guth.

Bruce Guth (00:24:56):

It was pretty clear that there’s no way the jury was not going to convict him. The evidence was so overwhelming and it was pretty clear that he was directing the orchestra with him and Malvo.

Speaker 13 (00:25:09):

Prosecutors were confident that John Muhammad would be found guilty, but their primary goal was to get the death penalty. His actual sentencing would be decided in the next phase of the trial. For this phase, prosecutors had to call new witnesses who demonstrated that Muhammad was in fact deserving of a death sentence. One of the people to testify was, Isa Nichols, John and Mildred Muhammad’s former accountant.

Isa Nichols (00:25:38):

I entered the courtroom. I hadn’t seen John since the day of his custody case in Tacoma. So I enter the courtroom and he’s there in a orange jumpsuit. I was asked to identify him in the courtroom and I pointed to him. And I wanted him to look at me, but he wouldn’t look at me. He just sat there in the stare. I’m answering the prosecutor’s questions about who he was. He wasn’t the same man that I knew at all. He was disassociated. He was still maintaining his innocence in this whole entire case.

Speaker 13 (00:26:21):

Finally, on November 24th, 2003, after another five hours of deliberation, the jury reached a verdict.

Speaker 18 (00:26:30):

As he has throughout the trial, John Muhammad displayed no emotion when the verdict was read. Death on two counts.

Speaker 19 (00:26:36):

Death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst and we think Mr. Muhammad fell in that category and the jury agreed.

Speaker 18 (00:26:46):

Some jurors said today they were moved by home video that showed a loving Muhammad with his children. One juror said he originally voted for life, but decided just last night that Muhammad was too dangerous.

Speaker 20 (00:26:57):

The lack of remorse, the possibility, no probability, that down the road there will be more casualties from this man.

Bruce Guth (00:27:09):

The big moment for me was when they actually sentenced Muhammad.

Speaker 13 (00:27:15):

This is Bruce Guth again.

Bruce Guth (00:27:16):

I became very close with Linda Franklin’s daughter and her family. She lived in Virginia Beach, ironically, and we’d pick her up every day and take her to court, one of the detectives and myself, or somebody, would pick her up and her husband at the time, and she had a young baby. She came to court every single day for both trials. We were all sitting in court the day when the jury came back with what the penalty was.

Bruce Guth (00:27:44):

The jury comes back and they give the sentence of death for Muhammad, multiple times. And there is somewhat of an outbreak in the courtroom. The families were not excited, because some of them didn’t even believe in the death penalty, but they understood the law. There was an initial outburst and then it got deathly quiet. The hair on the back of my head stood up.

Bruce Guth (00:28:07):

The court only allowed a still photographer in the courtroom. They didn’t allow TV cameras or any other photography. So there was one photographer way back in the corner the whole time at the trial and you hear, click, click, click, click, click, all throughout the trial.

Bruce Guth (00:28:21):

So everybody gets up to leave and Linda Franklin’s daughter comes over to me, the courtroom’s pretty much three quarters, four fifths cleared out, and she puts her arms around me and she’s weeping, and she just goes on about her mother and what we did for her and the task force and keeping her in touch and getting justice for her mother and she couldn’t thank us enough. And I lost it. I break out crying. I buried my head in my hands and I hear that photographer, click, click, click, click, click, click, click.

Bruce Guth (00:28:56):

Well, the next morning, I wake up, my picture’s on the front page of every newspaper in the country crying like a baby in the middle of this courthouse. I took a lot of ribbing for that. Just that whole moment with her and how it affected her and being exhausted, and it just finally hit me.

Speaker 13 (00:29:23):

The judge would later accept the jury’s recommendation and officially condemn John Muhammad to death. He would go to Sussex 1 State Prison while he awaited a date for his execution.

Speaker 16 (00:29:36):

My only concern was for my children.

Speaker 13 (00:29:40):

This is Mildred Muhammad, ex-wife of John Muhammad.

Mildred Muhammad (00:29:44):

When he went to trial, my son said, “Well, mom, I don’t want him to go to court.” I told them that whatever the jury comes back with, that’s what we’re going to accept. So when they decided that it would be the death penalty, I asked to be released from work so I could tell them.

Mildred Muhammad (00:30:02):

And so as they came in the door, I told my daughters and they say, “Well, are they going to do it tomorrow?” I say, “No, they’re not doing it tomorrow. There’s a process. I’m pretty sure he has some appeals and then after he has exhausted all of his appeals, then they will determine a date, and at that time he will be executed.”

Speaker 13 (00:30:23):

As before, Muhammad refused to talk to anyone about what happened those many weeks during the sniper spree. Meanwhile, prosecutors had to shift gears to focus on Lee Boyd Malvo’s trial. Malvo was facing two counts of capital murder, one for the killing of Linda Franklin on October 14th, 2002, another under the same terrorism statute used to charge John Muhammad. Malvo pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His trial began on November 10th, 2003, in Chesapeake, Virginia. The defense’s opening statement was made by attorney Craig Cooley. Here’s an excerpt read by a voice actor.

Speaker 21 (00:31:10):

May it please the court, gentlemen, and commonwealth. Good morning to you. They have a saying in Jamaica that describes the form of child rearing that was used by Lee’s mother and many of his caretakers. It’s called save the eye. Save the eye means you, as a parent, take your child to a teacher, to a caretaker, anyone who keeps them, and you say to them, use whatever is necessary to make my child obey you. You can beat him. You can beat him with whatever you want to. But do two things. Don’t kill him and don’t put out his eye. Save the eye. That’s what that phrase means. Save the eye is a concept that breeds, in fact it mandates, obedience. And every adult that you will hear from that knew Lee…

PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:32:04]

Speaker 22 (00:32:03):

And every adult that you will hear from, that knew Lee Malvo from a young child to his young adolescence, is going to boil down to, if you ask them, “Tell me one word. In one word, tell me about that child.” They’re going to say, “Obedient.” And if you say, “Okay, you can use two words,” they’re going to say, “Very obedient.” And you are going to see from the evidence in this case how that seemingly favorable quality in a child made him incredibly vulnerable and susceptible to a man who was prepared to manipulate him, and took him in, and used him, and trained him, and indoctrinated him for his own deluded purposes.

Bruce Guth (00:32:54):

The defense attorneys dressed him like a schoolboy, for lack of a better description. When we go to Catholic school, you had to wear little khakis, long sleeved white shirt with a little vest on. So he’d come in dressed up like a young boy.

Tom Walsh (00:33:09):

We’re not going to dress him with a big old rifle across his chest, and we’re not going to dress him with maybe a pot leaf on the back of his shirt. You see, you dress them appropriately and obviously you got to dress them to look their age.

Speaker 23 (00:33:21):

This is attorney Tom Walsh. He worked alongside attorney Mark Petrovich on Malvo’s defense team. Here’s Petrovich again.

Mark Petrovich (00:33:30):

To put him in a suit I think would be artificial. That wasn’t a part of his background. That’s not where he came from. Sure, we certainly didn’t want to err on the side of making him look more mature, of course. That would be foolish on our part, so we made sure that the clothes were more age appropriate for his age group and his age range. I think that’s a fair way to put it.

Speaker 23 (00:33:51):

But Bruce Guth says that, during the trial, Malvo didn’t act at all like a polite young man.

Bruce Guth (00:33:57):

That little piece of shit started getting on everybody’s nerve. The thing that really put me over the top, how he acted in court. When the jury would come in, he’d sit straight up like he was very polite and he’d write notes and he wouldn’t make any faces. The minute the jury would walk out, he would turn around and look at the families, and smile at the families. Just rubbing it in their face, and you just wanted to go up and just grab him by the collar. He was just beyond mean and cruel. And then the jury walked back in and he’d sit there like a young school child again.

Tom Walsh (00:34:33):

That did not happen. Those deputies wouldn’t let him turn around. He sat beside us all day during court and then he was out. He was not disrespectful. I don’t ever remember seeing him laugh at a victim. Matter of fact, there’s a rule on witnesses, and the victims would come in and testify and generally leave. They didn’t want to stay in the courtroom. So they would have to leave the courtroom, so he wouldn’t have a chance at breaks to turn around and laugh at anybody. The deputies wouldn’t let that happen.

Speaker 23 (00:34:57):

Guth also says that Malvo would sit there and draw for most of the hearings. Usually he drew the people who went up on the witness stand.

Bruce Guth (00:35:06):

We’d come into court for some motion. The judge would come up, sit down, a deputy or two deputies would be in between her and him. He would be able to draw exactly what he saw. The judge, even looked like the judge. The deputies, as far down detail of their sheriff patches. And he put cross hairs on the judge’s forehead or on a deputy’s forehead. And he was so good. I mean the guy could have gone professionally and been an artist. He was unbelievable.

Tom Walsh (00:35:34):

We encouraged him to draw and the drawings that he drew in court were amazing. He’s very talented and I still have some of those drawings. There were some drawings that were out during the beginning of the course where he’s drawing cross hairs of a scope on a sniper rifle, things of that nature.

Bruce Guth (00:35:52):

We found out about the drawings and did a search warrant, got all his drawings and we had a whole book. A blue book of pictures he drew. Used them against him.

Speaker 23 (00:36:00):

Not that the prosecution needed the drawings to prove his guilt. After Malvo admitted on tape during an early interrogation to most of the shootings, his guilty sentencing was all but guaranteed.

Mark Petrovich (00:36:14):

When we go back and look at it, the whole goal really was just to avoid a death sentence. We knew there would be a tremendous amount of information against Lee. They had solidified a case that he at the very least participated in all the shootings. His involvement may have been debated somewhat, but there was a mountain of evidence against him. So we knew we were going to be facing the death penalty. And given that there were so many victims, and such a horrific path that they had gone through, we knew it was going to be a huge uphill battle. So from day one, it was our goal just to avoid a death penalty.

Speaker 23 (00:36:50):

Walsh and Petrovich knew that prosecutors had the tape of Malvo admitting to the murders, and that they would use it as direct evidence to convict Malvo. So to avoid the worst possible sentence, they decided to make the case that Malvo was under Muhammad’s control the entire time. And that when he admitted to the murders on tape, it was because he had been brainwashed by Muhammad to take the fall. This is why Malvo pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Mark Petrovich (00:37:20):

Part of Muhammad’s indoctrination was to desensitize Lee to the violence, to shootings, to the consequences of what happened.

Tom Walsh (00:37:30):

Muhammad was having him, with earphones in in Bellingham, Washington watching video games. And violent video games.

Mark Petrovich (00:37:37):

So that was part of it. That was part of the indoctrination on shooting things without any feelings. That was during the time when he started to shoot guns and stuff.

Speaker 23 (00:37:47):

Petrovich says that in court, the defense played a videotape that Muhammad often made Malvo watch. It was an instructional video with advice for snipers. Carlos Hathcock, Marine sniper.

Carlos Hathcock (00:38:00):

It was an interview of him, and he would talk about how he would line his kills up, and how he would shoot somebody from long distances, yet could see that he got the bullet right through the eye. And after each anecdotal segment of his interview, he would chuckle and say… And it was a cadence throughout the interview.

Speaker 24 (00:38:24):

Just so happened, right? [inaudible 00:38:26] zero to 2,500, he comes home with a hamburger, and he stepped right across the spot where [inaudible 00:38:33] and he’d been able to brush his teeth, get a drink, whatever he was doing. And if he hadn’t stood up, I’d have went over his head. But as luck would have it, he stood up. He caught that [inaudible 00:38:46]

Mark Petrovich (00:38:46):

And then we drew the parallel between that interview and Lee’s interview, when they first brought him into the Massey Building, when they first brought him into Virginia. And when you listen to the interrogation, that’s how Lee answered the questions. He would say something and he would give it that chuckle. The exact same cadence and the exact same chuckle. And that illustrated the point, that this is how Muhammad controlled him and indoctrinated him, and essentially programmed him what to do, and how to do it.

Bruce Guth (00:39:17):

So their whole defense was, hey, Malvo was a kid, he didn’t know what he was doing, he grew up in Jamaica. He didn’t have a father. His father did nothing with them. Spent little time, and they just paraded witness after witness after witness.

Speaker 23 (00:39:30):

The defense team also wanted to prove that before John Muhammad came into Malvo’s life, he was an intelligent, well-mannered child.

Mark Petrovich (00:39:38):

When you want to tell a story in court, it’s best to tell that story through anecdotal witnesses that can provide details of what they actually observed and what the people were actually doing at certain times. Why was it important to get the witnesses from the Caribbean, from Washington State, from Louisiana? Because they showed to the court directly, to the jury directly what they observed with Lee growing up in the Caribbean, and then the interactions between Muhammad and Lee after Lee met him and what was going on with regard to the indoctrination.

Mark Petrovich (00:40:09):

They also really highlighted how he was a good student and was just really eager to learn. He wanted to pursue education and he never got the chance to settle down in any one place. This was a good narrative that we wanted to present to the jury to show why he got into the predicament he got into. This wasn’t Lee, this was John Muhammad.

Speaker 23 (00:40:33):

But the prosecution also had witness testimony that they could use to their advantage. Like Muhammad, Malvo had to face witnesses, family members and the victims themselves. Here’s Bruce Guth.

Bruce Guth (00:40:47):

The witnesses were even better than I anticipated. There was a doctor who was at the Exxon where a taxi driver was filling up gas, and he gets shot while he’s pumping gas. And this pediatrician is in the car next to him, and she sees this blood spatter, and him slide down and she runs over and helps him.

Speaker 23 (00:41:09):

That pediatrician was Dr. Caroline Namrow. She says it was jarring to come face-to-face with Malvo for the first time.

Caroline Namrow (00:41:16):

I remember feeling just basically shock and disbelief that he could have done this. Where the witness stand was placed was very close, maybe a few feet away from the defense table, and I remember he was wearing a cream sweater, almost like an Irish knit, and he was a good looking boy, and he was drawing on a pad the whole time that the prosecutor was asking me questions. I remember looking over and he was just drawing. And I remember thinking he just looked so innocent. How shocking. How shocking that a person who could commit such evil acts could look like that. Like this innocent young teenager. I’ve never been face-to-face with a murderer before. You expect in your mind somebody’s going to look evil. But then when you’re actually faced with this young, innocent, good looking guy, and he did this, he could do this, this was inside him to commit such horrific acts of violence, it totally blows your mind. I was totally shocked.

Speaker 23 (00:42:21):

Namrow recounted the morning of October 3rd in grave detail for the jury. She told them how she was pumping gas when she heard a loud bang and Prem Kumar Walekar collapsed on the side of her car, his blood everywhere.

Bruce Guth (00:42:36):

She runs over and helps him, you know, does doctor stuff to try to save him. And he keeps saying to her, “I’m going to die, aren’t I? I’m going to die.” And she said, “I had to lie to him.” She goes, “I told him he was going to live, but I knew he was going to die.” She had the whole courtroom crying. That was one of those moments, it put the whole thing in perspective how they ruined families.

Speaker 23 (00:43:17):

The jury had to determine whether Malvo truly had been under the control of John Muhammad when he committed his crimes. But the question of whether Malvo was quote, brainwashed, is to this day a point of contention.

Isa Nichols (00:43:32):

I believe that Lee Malvo, when I looked at him, I knew he was a victim. He was a child who had been brainwashed because I knew John and what he was capable of.

Speaker 23 (00:43:43):

This is Isa Nichols again, the former accountant for John and Mildred Muhammad. She attended Malvo’s trial as an audience member.

Isa Nichols (00:43:52):

And I think back, as I stared at him, he had to be 15 when he met John in Antigua. He was very young, and considered John his father because he was calling him Dad. He didn’t have his father in his life. So whatever they did in Antigua, John became that role. John had trained him and turned him into a killer.

Speaker 23 (00:44:14):

Isa believes the defense’s argument that Malvo was brainwashed by John Muhammad, but Virginia Police Lieutenant Bruce Guth is not so convinced.

Bruce Guth (00:44:25):

I don’t think he was brainwashed. You know, I’m not a doctor, but I’ve been doing this a long time. Clearly Muhammad was influencing him, and Muhammad got him into this. It became almost a video game to Malvo, and he liked it. He liked killing. I’m convinced if he got out tomorrow, he would do it again. His IQ was out of this world. So this notion that he didn’t know what he was doing when he sees Linda Franklin’s head getting blown off, or the lady sitting on a bus stop reading a book and the bullet goes through the book into her head.

Speaker 23 (00:45:03):

But many experts believed that Malvo was not in control of his actions, including psychologist Jonathan Mack, who co-wrote a book about Malvo.

Jonathan Mack (00:45:13):

He was a juvenile at the time that this occurred. He was completely innocent at the time when Muhammad found him. And over the course of a year and a half, two years, because Malvo was so susceptible to brainwashing. Yes, he became essentially the puppet of this 40-something year old bad actor Muhammad.

Speaker 23 (00:45:37):

Mack says that Malvo was especially vulnerable because he had experienced a lot of violence growing up in Jamaica and because he had little to no parental guidance or home stability. As a result, Malvo developed what Matt calls reactive attachment disorder where he copes by blindly attaching himself to whoever will care for him.

Jonathan Mack (00:45:59):

I don’t think it can be stated strongly enough that you take an individual with reactive attachment disorder, chronic depression, with one broken attachment after another who is trying to do well, who was a model student in school for the most part, and abandon him in a shack and expect that he’s not going to be vulnerable to a bad actor, if the bad actor happens to be smart enough to show the kid what the kid needs and is desperately looking for. You combine that with the fact that the adult brain is not fully mature, as we have learned in the past 20 years, until the age of 25, and that in particular executive frontal function which involves reflection on our behavior, and making choices that disinhibit impulse, or impulsive decisions in favor of doing the right thing, that part of the brain is not fully pruned and developed until mid twenties. Muhammad got started when Malvo was 10 years junior to that, at the age of 15

Speaker 23 (00:47:08):

Mack says that Muhammad used movies and video games as part of his indoctrination of Malvo. One of those movies was The Matrix.

Jonathan Mack (00:47:18):

The reality and The Matrix. There was no absolute right and wrong, right and wrong became relative to the master’s view.

Speaker 23 (00:47:27):

During one scene, the master, in this case Morpheus, instructs the student, Neo, about the parameters of reality within The Matrix. Morpheus says, quote, “The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy, but when you’re inside you look around. What do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters, the very minds of the people we are trying to save, but until we do, these, people are still a part of that system.”

PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [00:48:04]

Speaker 25 (00:48:02):

These people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy.

Mack (00:48:07):

He had to rewrite Malvo’s conscience and begin to inculcate a structure in Malvo’s mind where right and wrong were never absolute, but according to what the master said it was. And Muhammad put himself in the place of the master, which was fairly easy to do with Malvo because he was so desperate to have a father figure.

Speaker 25 (00:48:32):

Mack is of the opinion that Muhammad was enough of an influence on Malvo that he did in fact brainwash him into doing his bidding. But not everyone is convinced that brainwashing as we think of it, is even a real thing.

Jenny Rieker (00:48:47):

I think the word is just so loaded. The word is just so electric and so powerful that to say brainwashing basically dismisses everything. My name is Jenny Reiker. I teach in the psychology department at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana. I’ve published on brainwashing and Satanism, specifically how they relate to the legal system.

Jenny Rieker (00:49:10):

Psychological techniques, no matter how well they’re applied, cannot overcome free will. There’s no amount of psychological coercion that would force somebody to, let’s say, kill if they didn’t already have some kind of predisposition.

Speaker 25 (00:49:29):

According to Reiker, it’s highly unlikely that Mohammad’s influence alone would completely change Mohammed’s decision making ability somewhere Malvo’s own willpower had to come into play when he made certain choices.

Jenny Rieker (00:49:45):

It’s a combination of both. It’s a combination of a person’s predisposition and exposure to these techniques and circumstance that leads to this outcome, but brainwashing basically dismisses everything. Okay. They were brainwashed. That’s fine. No, it’s just not that simple. Human beings are incredibly complex.

Speaker 25 (00:50:02):

Still, Reiker suggests that Malvo’s defense is a logical one backed up by some science.

Jenny Rieker (00:50:08):

In the academic study of, “brainwashing”. Many of the targets of brainwashing were typically American youth. They were typically pretty isolated from family and friends. When you take somebody who doesn’t have very strong social ties, who don’t have clear paths ahead of them. You monopolize their time, you’ve reward desired behaviors. Then you can get some compliance.

Speaker 25 (00:50:35):

Much of Malvo’s story backed up his susceptibility to something like brainwashing. That makes the question of whether Malvo had sufficient agency, even muddier. But all that really mattered was whether the court believed he was in control of his actions and if he could be rehabilitated. We asked Reiker, how the brainwashing defense might hold up from elbows, insanity plea.

Jenny Rieker (00:50:58):

Many times certain sentences are decided based on whether or not that person is considered a danger to the community in the future. What’s the likelihood that they’ll commit this heinous crime again and brainwashing is a pretty easy scapegoat. Well, if we deprogram them or we reverse this socialization, then there’s no chance they’ll ever commit that kind of crime again. I think somebody might try to use something like brainwashed behavior to support something like an insanity plea, but insanity pleas are so incredibly rare. Courts very rarely accept them even when defendants try to use them and when they are accepted. They’re very, very rarely successful.

Jenny Rieker (00:51:35):

Most standards for admissibility of scientific evidence really don’t allow for brainwashing to be entered as scientific evidence. It really just, it doesn’t meet the hurdles, essentially.

Speaker 25 (00:51:49):

Malvo’s trial lasted roughly five weeks. On December 17th, 2003 both sides made their closing arguments. Attorney Michael Arif gave the defense’s statement. Here’s an excerpt read by a voice actor.

Michael Arif (00:52:03):

Was Lee captive? What else can you call it? He could not escape from John Muhammad. The day he met John Muhammad, he lost Lee Malvo without sounding overly melodramatic. The last victim of John Muhammad sits at the defense table today. That is the last victim. Malvo is the last victim of John Muhammad. All we ask is that you do one of two things today. You can either find Lee not guilty by reason of insanity and you have to reach down to your conscience to do that. It is a very difficult decision. I believe we proved our case to you. If you cannot reach that conclusion, I ask you to find him guilty of murder in the first degree. Lee was not the shooter. He was not the operative behind the letters, not the idea man. He was a follower. He was a pawn, molded like a piece of clay to John Muhammad.

Speaker 25 (00:53:07):

Attorney Robert Horan gave the prosecution’s closing argument. Here’s an excerpt read by a voice actor.

Robert Horan (00:53:14):

Members of the jury, there’s no such thing as a good murder. They don’t make them. They’re all bad, and we submit to you that this one is as bad as any. The notion of killing innocent people, working people, ordinary citizens, killing them at random on the public streets. It’s about as reprehensible as you can get it. We make no excuses for John Muhammad. He’s as bad as he is. But for all intents and purposes, they’re peas in a pod. The only difference is Malvo is younger, but their willingness to kill and their willingness to do it for money, that’s common to both of them. The most reprehensible of killing should be called what it is. It is a capital killing under the terrorism statute. It is a capital killing under the statute for killing two people within three years. We ask you, members of the jury, in all earnestness to give him justice, give him a conviction for the two capital murders that he committed. Thank you.

Speaker 25 (00:54:21):

After closing arguments, the jury deliberated for two days. Then on December 18th, 2003 the verdict came back. Lee Boyd Malvo was found guilty on both counts of capital murder. Based on Virginia law at the time, he was eligible for the death penalty. Now his trial would move into the sentencing phase where his fate would be decided.

Speaker 25 (00:54:52):

Each side had to present an argument for why Malvo should or should not be sentenced to death. Attorney Robert Horan again gave the prosecution’s argument. Here’s an excerpt read by a voice actor.

Robert Horan (00:55:05):

What was particularly sinister about this defendant is there is not an ounce of remorse. You have heard him sobbing and crying on different occasions. He is crying for himself is not crying for all those people he killed. He did not cry for Keenya Cook. He did not pry for Linda Franklin. He did not cry for Conrad Johnson. He sobs for himself. Remorse? They have to invent it in order for you to find it. We submit to you. It is not in this record. No remorse. Members of the jury, we submit to you, he is a major player, is not only a major player, he is the sniper.

Robert Horan (00:55:48):

Remember he says on that tape talking about Mohammed, “We are a team, team team”. That is what he said and they were an unholy team. A team that was as vicious, as brutal, as uncaring as you could find. Talk about John Mohammed all you want. Maybe it was his plan, maybe it was his idea, but the evidence stamps this defendant as the shooter, the evidence stamps this defendant as the killer. Members of the jury, we ask you for the penalty of death because the evidence calls for it. The evidence tells you, you are dealing with a defendant who has proven by his actions that he has a depraved mind. And so we ask you for the ultimate punishment.

Speaker 25 (00:56:36):

Attorney Craig Cooley gave the defense’s argument, here’s an excerpt read by a voice actor.

Craig Cooley (00:56:43):

Every life is precious. Certainly the lives of innocent people who are lost by the delusions of John Muhammad and also so precious, is the life of Lee Malvo. But what lesson does the Commonwealth seek for us to send to our children when it urges us to kill this child, to teach them that killing is wrong? Our children should know and Lee should know that when you commit terrible acts, there is terrible punishment to follow. There are consequences, but you and I need to remember that the two greatest qualities we as human beings possess are compassion and love, and it’s by our exercise of those that we all ultimately will be judged.

Craig Cooley (00:57:38):

Lee’s life is about to be put in the hands of others. We’re about to entrust the life of this child to you and in a very real sense, you are the last of the very long line of caretakers to exercise your compassion. I leave you with a phrase. It’s a phrase that both invites you to meet punishment, but also to temper it, to draw the line short of the ultimate. Punish the child, save the eye.

Speaker 25 (00:58:16):

The Virginia jury was faced with one of the most difficult decisions imaginable. Should they sentence Malvo who was a minor during the time of his crimes, to death? There was so many questions to consider. Was Malvo so influenced by Muhammad that he lagged freewill when he committed murder? Was his confession authentic or did he confess under the direction of Mohammad? And if he was supposedly brainwashed, did that mean he could be rehabilitated and thus safe to walk the streets again? And regardless of Malvo, should anyone who commits a crime as a teenager be sentenced to death, however heinous the crime? And what about the victims and their families? What was the right sentence to see that justice was served for them? Where these moral and ethical boundaries are drawn is completely in the eye of the beholder. But nonetheless, on December 23rd, 2003 just two days before Christmas. The jury reached its decision.

Speaker 25 (00:59:37):

Next time on Monster: DC Sniper.

Speaker 26 (00:59:41):

I remember standing in court when that verdict came in, standing right beside him and that was it.

Speaker 27 (00:59:43):

There was just a surge of emotion. People screamed out.

Speaker 28 (00:59:51):

Mom, you know we really want to talk to Dad. So I called the Warden. The Warden said, “Your children are under 18” he say “so that means you have to come with them”.

Speaker 29 (01:00:02):

I went to the execution, with the pain and all the anger there I have. I though that was going to release me.

Speaker 30 (01:00:11):

Is this a rifle with a scope?

Lee Malvo (01:00:12):


Speaker 30 (01:00:13):

So you had him in your sights?

Lee Malvo (01:00:14):


Speaker 31 (01:00:15):

He didn’t die immediately and I had to go out there and get him.

Speaker 32 (01:00:19):

They shot people from Washington to Arizona to allegedly Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina. What we know as the DC snipers is really the United States snipers.

Speaker 33 (01:00:38):

Monster: DC Sniper is a 15 episode podcast hosted by Tony Harris and produced by iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV. Matt Frederick and Alex Williams are executive producers on behalf of iHeartRadio alongside producers, Trevor Young, Ben [inaudible 01:00:54] and Josh Thane. Peyton Lindsey and Donald Albright are executive producers on behalf of Tenderfoot TV. Alongside producers, Meredith Stedman and Christina Dana. Original music is by Makeup and Vanity Set. In this episode, John Allen Muhammad was portrayed by actor Jason Williams. Additional voice acting was provided by Alex Williams, Noel Brown, Jonathan Strickland, Josh Clark, and Ben Bolan. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the first two seasons, Atlanta Monster and Monster, The Zodiac Killer. If you have questions or comments, email us at monster@iheartmedia.com or you can call us at 1-833-285-6667. Thanks for listening.