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Malvo sketches depicted 'jihad'

Defense submits images of hate and terror, hoping to show a disturbed mind
Sun Staff
Originally published December 4, 2003
CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Hoping to shed light on what they believe was an insane mind, defense attorneys for sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo presented a judge yesterday with dozens of sketches that the teen-ager scribbled in his jail cell while awaiting trial for last fall's sniper attacks - crimes that Malvo depicted in his art as "jihad" in America.

Filled with rambling anti-American messages and hand-drawn images of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and a mix of characters from The Matrix movie, the drawings offer an eerie glimpse of Malvo and the possible motivation behind the sniper siege that spread terror around the nation's capital.

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"I would take you out at your dinner table. ... You will not escape, America. Not now, not ever," Malvo wrote on one sketch, which shows the cross hairs of a rifle superimposed over a police officer. Another sketch shows cross hairs aiming at the White House.

Malvo's defense lawyers entered a binder of more than 100 pages containing not only the disturbing sketches, but also letters and jail reports, as court evidence yesterday. All were drawn or written last spring, while Malvo, 18, was jailed in Virginia. Collectively, they depict a teen-ager bursting with rage.

One reads: "If you are the black man in skin and white in mind then you are 'white,' you are my enemy and I will destroy you. I don't want and will not kill you, I will destroy you utterly!"

On another are the words, "We[sic] marching for no civil rights nonsense, we will not beg, we will earn it like men, with our blood, so my children may live in a world without you plaguerizing[sic], deceiving and controling[sic] their lives."

When the nine-woman, seven-man jury will be handed the binder is unclear. It was presented yesterday to Fairfax County Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush, who is presiding over the case. Although the documents are now formally entered into the trial as evidence, the jury has yet to view them.

In all, 134 documents were catalogued into evidence yesterday - the largest single submission of evidence during the trial.

Malvo appears to have spent many hours in his cell spreading his mind out on paper. The blue-lined paper pages were sometimes surreptitiously plucked out of his cell by jail officers during contraband inspections, and at other times Malvo crumbled them into balls and flung them through his jail bars.

While the letters and drawings express a wide range of militant sentiments, the most recurring theme is that of jihad - or holy war - against America.

"We did not start this flame, we merely picked up the torch," he wrote on the drawing showing bin Laden near a police officer in a rifle's sights. "Ye shall all die! Every last one."

Other drawings show rifles and semiautomatic weapons drawn in meticulous detail next to the words "Expend all energy on target," and also a fixation on the enormously popular Matrix movie. In them, Malvo wrote of the need to "Free the Mind."

"Talking is over," Malvo wrote in another about oppression of blacks. Elsewhere on it, he scrawled, "I failed so I die, that is a simple fact of nature, of evolution. If I were you, I would kill me too."

And another: "I have been accused on my mission. Allah knows I'm gonna suffer now." In the past, Malvo's defense team has said the jailhouse musings show just how brainwashed Malvo was by his accomplice, John Allen Muhammad.

Experts said the documents are likely to play an important role in the jury's decision on Malvo's sanity at the time of the crimes.

"If they get the right expert to connect to the jury who says this is the destruction of his mind, they may get somewhere," said Jose F. Anderson, a University of Baltimore law professor who has supervised death penalty appeals in Maryland.

However, lawyers for Malvo failed yesterday to place before the jury an alarming letter the teen-age sniper suspect wrote two months before last fall's Washington-area sniper siege, in which the youth expressed fear that Muhammad would kill him, called himself a time bomb close to exploding and wrote about despair in his life.

"I have a father who I know is going to have to kill me for a righteous society to prevail," the letter says, according to defense lawyer Craig S. Cooley.

The letter is valuable to the defense, which hopes to prove that Malvo was insane during last year's sniper shootings and participated in them only because he was so brainwashed by Muhammad that he could no longer discern right from wrong.

Defense lawyer Michael S. Arif argued that the letter, which has not been made public, depicts Malvo's state of mind around the end of July last year, just two months before 10 people were shot dead in the Washington area by a sniper's bullet. It includes him writing that "he was going to explode," Arif said.

But Roush agreed with Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr.'s contention that the letter was "pure, unadulterated hearsay" - unsubstantiated remarks from someone who cannot be questioned about them.

Defense lawyers said they have not given up trying to get the letter before the jury.

Malvo wrote it to Muhammad's 17-year-old niece, LaToria Williams, while the two men visited Muhammad's family in summer of last year in Baton Rouge, La.

Roush refused to allow testimony about the letter's contents, including Williams' thoughts about the letter. With jurors out of the room, Williams testified that the words scared her, so she gave the letter to her mother.

Steven D. Benjamin of Richmond, president-elect of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the defense may not need that letter in evidence, and that its introduction could backfire on them because it suggests that Malvo was not fully indoctrinated, knew what was going on and understood the danger.

Last week, a Virginia Beach jury sentenced Muhammad to die for last year's Oct. 9 fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, who was gunned down at a Manassas gas station.

Malvo is charged with two counts of capital murder in the fatal shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin on Oct. 14 of last year. Franklin was gunned down in the parking lot of a Home Depot in the Seven Corners section of Fairfax County as she stood a few feet from her husband. One count alleges that Malvo committed multiple murders within three years; the other is under Virginia's untested anti-terrorism law, accusing him of scheming to extort $10 million from the government in exchange for ending the shooting spree.

Also yesterday, Earl Dancy Jr., a friend of Muhammad's in Tacoma, Wash., testified that Muhammad took Malvo to a firing range to teach him to shoot and trained him on sniper-like video games. He said he illegally bought a gun for Muhammad and that he helped him try to make fake identifications.

Also, Glen Chapman, a Ferndale, Wash., gunsmith, testified that Muhammad came to ask him in November 2001 if he could cut a gun barrel into sections for his son, so that it could be transported in a small case and then screwed together for reassembly.

"It only works in the movies," Chapman said, explaining that the force of a bullet firing through the weak point in the barrel probably would blow the barrel off.




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