Sniper Trial: Lee Boyd Malvo

Jeralyn Merritt
Criminal Defense Lawyer
Monday, November 10, 2003; 3:30 PM

The murder trial of sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo begins Monday, Nov. 10, in Chesapeake, Va. He is charged with capital murder in the Oct. 14, 2002 slaying of Linda Franklin at a Home Depot parking lot in Seven Corners. His lawyers have indicated that they will pursue an insanity defense, arguing that the teenager was brainwashed by John Allen Muhammad.

Criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt said in an interview with that jury selection in this case is absolutely critical for three reasons: the heinousness of the crime, the fact that Malvo was a juvenile when it was committed and that the death penalty looms as a verdict.

Merritt was online Monday, Nov. 10 at 3:30 p.m. ET to discuss the process of jury selection.

Merritt is an attorney in private practice and was one of the principal trial lawyers for Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City Bombing Case. She is also treasurer of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and serves on the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Selection Council. She lectures nationally on a variety of legal topics and has been a television analyst since 1996.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: Is Malvo a dead duck and we're all just "going through the motions" or is there some slim chance he could get a fair, impartial trial and manage eventually to walk out the front door a free man? Even if he pleads mentally unbalanced, he could walk out of the shadows one day - others do. And if it is just a show trial, what's the rationale behind dragging the whole thing out?

Thanks much.

Jeralyn Merritt: There is virtually no chance Malvo will walk out a free man. If he is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he will be committed to a mental institution. This happened to John Hinckley who was charged with shooting then President Ronald Reagan.
It is not just a show trial. It is a trial at which a teenager's life is at stake. The defense needs to find at least one juror who will be unable to vote for death in the event of a conviction.


Millerville, Md.: With Malvo pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, what will the prosecution have to prove to consider him sane or does the defense have the burden of proof to consider him insane.

CONTINUED     1              >

© 2003 The Washington Post Company