Lee Boyd Malvo jury selection continues

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- The judge in the capital murder trial of sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo qualified enough potential jurors Tuesday, and lawyers are expected to pick the final group today.

Among those accepted were a retired teacher, a Coast Guard veteran, a hospital worker and a woman who said she was "95 percent sure" she could not impose the death penalty. Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush said the woman indicated she would follow the court's instructions despite her religious convictions.

From the final pool of 28, prosecutors and defense lawyers each will have six peremptory strikes to reduce the jury to 12 plus four alternates.

Defense attorney Craig Cooley said after court that the defense will challenge all 28 because some who oppose the death penalty were excluded.

Defense lawyers conceded they had little chance of Roush accepting their motion but that it was an issue which could be raised on appeal.

Cooley said he was pleased that the panel of 15 women and 13 men include a number of parents, a factor that might weigh in favor of the defense argument that Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the slayings, was an impressionable youth easily controlled by John Allen Muhammad, 42.

Roush expressed pleasure with the day's progress, saying she had expected jury selection to take all week. Opening statements are now set for Thursday.

Malvo, now 18, is charged with two counts of capital murder in the killing of FBI analyst Linda Franklin on Oct. 14, 2002.

His lawyers are arguing that he is innocent by reason of insanity. They have said he was brainwashed by Muhammad into participating in a shooting spree in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. Ten people were shot dead and three were wounded during the three-week period.

In the two days of jury selection, Malvo often appeared to be taking notes.

Dismissed Tuesday from the potential jury pool were seven people who said they believed Malvo was guilty and a handful who said they either could not impose the death penalty or believed execution was the appropriate penalty for the shooting spree.

"I believe that he did it," said one prospective juror, who added that he opposed the death penalty. He was dismissed.

Prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. said arrangements needed to be made to shuttle the physical evidence 15 miles between Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, where Muhammad is being tried.

Prosecutors in Muhammad's separate trial rested their case Monday.

The court in Virginia Beach was closed Tuesday because of Veterans Day. Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. has said he will rule Wednesday on a request by defense lawyers to drop the two death penalty charges against Muhammad.

The cases were moved 200 miles from northern Virginia out of concern that an impartial jury could not be found there because the shootings caused widespread fear and generated extensive media coverage.

Malvo and Muhammad are being tried for two separate killings in northern Virginia. Both men face the possibility of execution if convicted.

Associated Press writer Matthew Barakat contributed to this report.

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