Malvo Trial

Opening Statement by Defense Attorney Craig S. Cooley

Friday, November 14, 2003; 12:00 AM

The following is the transcript of the Nov. 13 opening statement by defense attorney Craig S. Cooley in the capital murder trial of Lee Boyd Malvo. This is from a preliminary transcript of court proceedings compiled by court reporters Alvis & Cheesebrew, Inc.

COOLEY: May it please the court, gentlemen, and commonwealth, good morning to you.

They have a saying in Jamaica that describes the form of childrearing that was used by Lee's mother and many of his caretakers. It's called "save the eye." Have you ever heard that phrase? Do you know what it means?

Save the eye means you, as a parent, take your child to a teacher, to a caretaker, anyone who keeps them and oversees of any kind and you say to them: use whatever is necessary to make my child obey you. You can beat him. You can beat him with whatever you want to. You can beat him on whatever part of his body you want to beat him, but do two things: Don't kill him, and don't put out his eye. Save the eye. That's what that phrase means.

Lee's mother, Una James, and his aunt and many of his keepers and caretakers believe strongly not only in the concept but in the application of save the eye. It's a concept that's very foreign to modern parents, but it is the way in the interior of Jamaica. Some Jamaican high school teachers would point out to you that it is preserved in the constitution of Jamaica this right of discipline. That would seem somewhat old-fashioned to us.

You'll hear from a Jamaican that knew Lee as a child and knew Lee's father, Leslie Malvo, and knew his mother, Una James, and he has lived in the United States with his wife in Florida, and he's lived there for some years and returned to Jamaica, was raised in Jamaica. He would say to you this is Jamaica. This is not the United States. Down here we crack our kids, and he used a word for their posterior.

In Jamaica if your child won't mind, you can take them to the police station, and the policeman will beat them for you. In fact, you can take them to any adult male, and they will beat them for you. Save the eye is a concept that breeds, in fact, it mandates obedience, and every adult that you will hear from that knew Lee Malvo from a young child to his young adolescence is going to boil down to if you ask them, Tell me one word -- in one word tell me about that child -- they're going to say obedient. And if you say, okay, you can use two words, they're going to say very obedient, and if you give them three, they'll say very, very obedient, and you are going to see from the evidence in this case how that seemingly favorable quality in a child made him incredibly vulnerable and susceptible to a man who was prepared to manipulate him and took him in and used him, trained him, and indoctrinated him for his own deluded purposes.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, in this case and in every case that's tried in any criminal court in the United States, the defense goes second. The prosecution gets to go first, and we go second. They get the opportunity to give you the first impression of this case, and you are going to hear a lot of psychologists and psychiatrists at different times in this case, but one thing any basic psychologist will say is what you hear first, you believe it, and sometimes you believe it in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. All I can ask you to do is what you promised to do, what was in the voir dire process, and that is to keep an open mind, and in doing so, I think it's important for you to start with some parameters because there's certain things we are telling you or arguing to you, and there's certain things that we are not.

So you need to know what we are saying and what we are not saying.

Well, we are not suggesting to you that they got the wrong man. We are not suggesting to you that Lee is not one of the two people that are involved in the horrible things that Mr. Horan just described to you. So don't expect us to be putting on evidence that there's some other party other than Lee Malvo.

What we are saying, however, is that his role is different than what they are alleging, and frankly, even from what he said in those statements. We are not suggesting to you that Lee is crazy in the sense that most of us think about crazy people. As soon as the word "insane" comes up, we all think about "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," and we see them as "zombiefied" or bouncing around or so delusional that everybody immediately reacts that way, but this case is so bizarre and it is so unique that you have to consider the evidence.

This is not a case of schizophrenia. This is not a case of the person who is running around everywhere says, My, Gosh, they're crazy. This is a case of indoctrinization, and the evidence in this case is going to show you a degree of indoctrinization and incredible influence exerted over this child, a 15-year-old when he met Mr. Muhammad, 5 feet 5, 110 pound Jamaican youngster who was extraordinarily vulnerable and desperate for a father figure.

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2003 The Washington Post Company