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Malvo's conflicting statements become key issue in sniper trial

Defense says he'd been brainwashed

CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- Did Lee Boyd Malvo lie to police when he said he was the triggerman in last year's sniper killings, or did he lie to psychiatrists when he said he served only as John Allen Muhammad's spotter? Testimony at Malvo's trial yesterday centered on those conflicting assertions, a key part of the question of whether Malvo had been brainwashed by Muhammad and was therefore insane at the time of the killings.

Defense psychiatrists say Malvo was lying when he said he was the shooter because he wanted to take the rap for the man he considered his father. The defense contends that Malvo was the triggerman in only two killings: that of a woman in Tacoma, Wash., eight months before the Washington, D.C.-area shootings, and the last slaying, of a bus driver on Oct. 22, 2002, in Silver Spring, Md.

Prosecutors suggest Malvo was lying to psychiatrists when he recanted his confession, noting he cannot be executed for either of the two killings he now admits committing. Neither Maryland nor Washington execute juveniles; Malvo, now 18, was 17 at the time of the killings.

Defense psychiatrist Neil Blumberg testified that Malvo's initial statements claiming responsibility occurred while he was still under Muhammad's influence. He added that if Malvo was lying later, it didn't make sense for him to still admit he was the triggerman in two killings.

"Someone who's lying or malingering -- why not deny everything?" Blumberg said.

Fairfax County prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. asked Blumberg why Malvo, if he was so concerned about protecting Muhammad, told prison guards just days after his arrest that Muhammad had been the shooter in a September 2002 killing in Montgomery, Ala.

Blumberg responded that Malvo thought the guards would not be credible witnesses, so he felt free to speak with them.

Blumberg also said on cross-examination yesterday that Malvo's antisocial behavior began years before he met Muhammad. He said Malvo killed stray cats with a slingshot beginning at age 8 or 9, and such conduct continued for nearly five years.

Malvo is being tried for the slaying of Linda Franklin, an FBI analyst shot in a Home Depot parking lot. Muhammad was convicted last month and sentenced to die for killing a man at a northern Virginia gas station during the sniper rampage, which left 10 dead in October 2002.

Malvo's trial will resume Monday. Court was canceled for today to give defense lawyers time to prepare their cross-examination of one of the prosecution's mental health experts.

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