Judge OKs prison guards' testimony against Malvo

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

FAIRFAX, Va. -- The judge in the capital murder trial of Lee Boyd Malvo will allow the testimony of two prison guards who say the sniper suspect bragged to them about committing several of the shootings.

Defense lawyers had sought to suppress the testimony of Maryland prison guards Joseph Stracke and Wayne Davis, contending that Malvo had already invoked his right to remain silent by the time he had spoken with the guards.

But Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush ruled Tuesday that the testimony can be heard at trial, set to start Nov. 10.

"Although Malvo was in custody, and the prison guards were law-enforcement officers, Malvo initiated the conversations, and the guards did nothing deliberately to elicit any incriminating statements," Roush wrote.

Malvo, 18, and fellow suspect John Allen Muhammad, 42, have been charged with 13 shootings, including 10 deaths, during the three-week spree last fall.

They are also suspected or charged in shootings in Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Arizona and Washington state. Muhammad's murder trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 14.

The two guards stunned observers during a July 24 pretrial hearing in which they provided details of their discussions with Malvo.

The guards testified that Malvo told them he shot 13-year-old Iran Brown, of Bowie, Md., to rattle Montgomery County, Md., police Chief Charles Moose, who led the sniper investigation. Malvo allegedly said the plan worked, citing Moose's tearful and angry public response to the Brown shooting.

Malvo also said the initial plan had been to shoot a bus full of students, but that plan was aborted because the bus pulled in the wrong way.

The guards said Malvo also spoke of racial hatred as a motive for some of the killings and that Malvo said the only reason he shot black people was because the police would have caught them sooner if all the victims had been white.

"But (Malvo) said the shootings were mostly about money," Davis testified at the July hearing. Prosecutors have said the sniper shootings were part of a scheme to extort $10 million from the government.

Malvo also told one of the guards that he shot a senator on a golf course, that he had shot a young black woman who answered a door and that he had tracked down and shot a schoolmate who had been picking on him.

Davis said he didn't necessarily believe everything Malvo said and thought Malvo was exaggerating.

The golf course shooting could be a reference to the March 2002 shooting of Jerry Taylor, 60, who died after being hit from long range by a single bullet as he practiced on Tucson, Ariz., golf course. Taylor was not a senator.

The shooting of a black girl could be a reference to the February 2003 shooting of Keenya Cook in Tacoma, Wash. Malvo is a suspect in both shootings, but has not been charged.

Defense lawyers said the prison guards essentially coerced the confession from Malvo, who had asked the guards for some food before the conversations took place.

But prosecutors said there was no evidence of coercion, and that Malvo spoke willingly, as evidenced by the boastful nature of the conversation.

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