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D.C. sniper questions protege’s mental health

John Allen Muhammad questioned his former sniper protege Lee Boyd Malvo about his mental health during cross-examination Wednesday.
John Allen Muhammad, Lee Boyd Malvo, Katherine Winfree
Convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad, standing, cross-examines fellow convicted sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, left, on Tuesday in a Rockville, Md. courthouse. The two are on trial for 2002 shootings.Dana Verkouteren / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

John Allen Muhammad questioned his former sniper protege Lee Boyd Malvo aggressively about his mental health during cross-examination Wednesday.

Muhammad’s questions came a day after Malvo’s testimony provided an insider’s account of the October 2002 sniper shootings that left 10 people dead.

“Who decided you was insane? ... How many doctors said you was insane?” Muhammad asked Malvo, referring to his 2003 insanity plea in Virginia for one of the sniper killings.

“They said I was indoctrinated,” Malvo responded.

Muhammad, 45, and Malvo, 21, already have been convicted in Virginia for a sniper murder there. Muhammad received a death sentence while Malvo was given a life term.

Prosecutors in Maryland have said they are pursuing a second trial in case the Virginia conviction is overturned on appeal and to seek justice in Montgomery County, where six of the 10 killings happened.

On Tuesday, Malvo testified against Muhammad, who is representing himself, calling him a coward who “made me a monster.”

A father figure
Shortly after Malvo repudiated his former mentor, Muhammad began cross-examining Malvo, whom he says he still considers as a son.

“The state has informed me I’m not to address you as ‘son’ or ‘Lee,”’ Muhammad said at the outset of his cross-examination Tuesday.

He then proceeded to inform Malvo that he had told jurors at the trial’s opening that “John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo are innocent and I’m going to prove it.”

Malvo remained unmoved by Muhammad’s statement. When Muhammad asked Malvo if he believed Muhammad would indeed exonerate the pair, Malvo responded no.

Later, Malvo became agitated as Muhammad pressed him on a variety of details, as Muhammad has done to others throughout the trial. Asked repeatedly by Muhammad how often their Bushmaster rifle was stored in a duffel bag, Malvo finally blurted out: “The weapon’s been in the bag plenty of times, Muhammad.”

Muhammad questioned Malvo about inconsistent statements he has given about the shootings. Shortly after the two were arrested, Malvo took responsibility for all 13 sniper shootings.

On the witness stand Tuesday, Malvo said Muhammad fired 10 shots and Malvo three. Muhammad then quizzed Malvo on whether he had been improperly convicted in 2003 for one of the killings in which Malvo now says Muhammad pulled the trigger.

“No, I’m not innocent. I took part in that shooting. I’m an accomplice,” he said.

Malvo’s daylong testimony included a number of startling admissions.

Plan was to bomb children's hospitals
Malvo said Muhammad’s initial plan called for six shootings a day for 30 days, to be followed by a second phase that would include bombings of school buses and children’s hospitals.

He said Muhammad told him “we’re going to go to the Washington, D.C., area and we’re going to terrorize these people.” Malvo said Washington was chosen because that was where Muhammad’s ex-wife had taken the couple’s children. The plan ultimately called for taking the children to Canada.

Malvo testified he became so despondent on hearing Muhammad’s plans that he played Russian roulette while sobbing in a bathtub, pulling the trigger several times before breaking down.

Malvo said Muhammad altered the plans midway through the sniper spree after he and Malvo nearly had a falling out.

Muhammad told Malvo they would obtain a $10 million payment in exchange for stopping the killings, and then recruit 140 homeless children to a compound in Canada where they would trained to “continue the mission” — namely, a prolonged terror campaign against America, Malvo said.

Malvo said he “just latched onto that” and believed it because Muhammad had always been truthful with him.

At the end of several hours of questioning, prosecutor Katherine Winfree asked Malvo what he now thinks of Muhammad. “I think he is a coward,” Malvo said.

Malvo then glared at Muhammad: “You took me into your house and you made me a monster,” he said.