A stream of teachers, friends and relatives from sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo's native Jamaica testified Tuesday to the teenager's spontaneous good nature and obedience during his childhood and adolescence -- before he met John Allen Muhammad.
In the second day of defense testimony in Malvo's murder trial, his lawyers tried to reinforce the notion that Malvo, now 18, was a nonviolent, intelligent youth whose life course was drastically altered after he met Muhammad in the summer of 2000, when Malvo was 15. Muhammad has been convicted and sentenced to death for directing last fall's sniper attacks, and Malvo's prosecutors allege that Malvo was a knowing and willing accomplice and the triggerman in many of the shootings.
The defense hopes to convince the jury that Malvo is not guilty by reason of insanity, with "insanity" defined in this case as a complete indoctrination of Malvo by Muhammad. The emerging defense strategy is to dramatize the difference in Malvo's behavior before and after his meeting with Muhammad.
Defense lawyers also began presenting friends of Muhammad's to the jury Tuesday to testify about his demeanor and his performance raising three of his own children. All the witnesses appeared this month in Muhammad's trial in Virginia Beach.
Attorney Craig S. Cooley said the defense plans to present more testimony about Muhammad, followed by witnesses who saw the two men interact. After that, the defense will present a series of mental health experts to talk about indoctrination and how Malvo's relationship with the man he once called "father" might qualify as temporary insanity.
Malvo is facing two counts of capital murder in the Oct. 14, 2002, shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot store in the Seven Corners area. One count charges the slaying occurred as an act of terrorism designed to extort $10 million from the government. The other count alleges the killing was one of two or more in three years.
In six days of testimony, Fairfax County prosecutors presented evidence of 13 shootings involving 14 victims and 10 deaths. All but one of the shootings occurred in the region between the northern Washington suburbs and the northern Richmond suburbs. One occurred in Montgomery, Ala., the only crime presented in which witnesses identified Malvo as being at the scene.
The trial recessed Tuesday afternoon and will take the rest of the week off. It will resume Monday morning.
Eight witnesses from Jamaica took the witness stand Tuesday, and all of them used the word "obedient" in describing Malvo's demeanor and behavior growing up. Malvo watched the testimony with particular attentiveness, seeing some of his old school chums and surrogate parents for the first time since he left Jamaica in 1999. The witnesses often returned Malvo's attention with wistful, sometimes pained expressions.
Some of the witnesses looked after Malvo while his mother, Una James, lived and worked elsewhere. Cooley said in his opening statement that Malvo often would bond with his adult parent figures, only to have James reappear and sweep him somewhere else.
When James left Malvo's father, Leslie Malvo, in 1990, she moved to the northern hills of Jamaica and stayed with her sister Marie Lawrence's family in a rural town called Endeavour. Malvo was 5, Lawrence said, and stayed in Endeavour for about a year. His mother then moved with her son back to Kingston and later to the island of St. Martin -- part of a series of moves.
James sent Malvo to live with Lawrence again when he was 9, and he stayed for nearly two years. Her husband, John Lawrence, "was a dad to Lee," and the boy was "very obedient" even as a small child, Lawrence testified.
Lawrence was ebullient and demonstrative on the witness stand, answering with a booming "Yes, mon" when asked if she ever disciplined either Malvo or her own children. As she stepped off the stand and started walking out of the courtroom, she began to cry loudly and exclaimed "Oh, Jesus!" as she left.
Malvo dropped his head and, for the first time in the trial, seemed distraught. Michael S. Arif, one of his attorneys, placed his arm around Malvo to comfort him. Arif said later, "I think the cumulative effect of all the prior [personal] testimony has begun to settle on him."
In sixth grade, Malvo did so well on a standard common entrance exam that he was placed at the top-level York Castle High School. Jamaicans begin high school in seventh grade and graduate after 11th grade. He smiled as he saw old classmates Onyeka Nevins and Andrew McLeod, who both said he was a hardworking student and a fun friend.
The defense displayed Malvo's application for admission to York Castle. On the line for his father's name, someone had written "Dead." His father testified Monday that James concealed his son from him.
Esmie McLeod, a vice principal at York Castle, could not conceal her dismay as she took her seat on the witness stand near Malvo. "He was such a spontaneous child," she said, "very effervescent, very witty, just a very lovely child." He never had disciplinary trouble, she said.
Malvo was removed twice from York Castle, once in seventh grade and again in ninth grade, McLeod said. The second time was the only time McLeod ever met Malvo's mother.
"I felt she was doing her son an injustice," McLeod said she told James, "by removing him from place to place. I said: 'You are lucky you have a beautiful son here. Why are you moving him from place to place? You constantly uproot him.' "
James, still in Jamaica, is unavailable to testify, and her response to McLeod was disallowed as hearsay. But McLeod has said that James told her she was taking Malvo to live with her in Antigua -- where he met Muhammad.
Rosalind Aaron, principal of the Antigua and Berbuda Seventh-day Adventist School, said Malvo's school records from 1999 were later amended to show that Muhammad was his legal guardian. She said that she spoke with James, that "she said it was okay," and that when she met Muhammad, he said he was Malvo's uncle.
Soon, Aaron said, Malvo's grades declined and he was bringing a Koran to school. Aaron discouraged his discussion of Islam in the Christian school. Two weeks later, he stopped showing up, Aaron said.
By spring 2001, James had immigrated to Florida, with Muhammad's help. On May 31, 2001, Malvo and Muhammad entered the United States. Malvo moved in with his mother but later ran away and reunited with Muhammad in Bellingham, Wash.
Mary C. Marez, Muhammad's girlfriend, said she met Malvo two or three times in winter 2001. "He was intelligent, not a typical teenager," Marez recalled. "The way he carried himself was impressive."
Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. asked Marez whether Malvo gave any indication of mental or behavioral problems. Marez said no.
Robert E. Holmes, who met Muhammad when both entered the Army in 1985, testified that Muhammad was a "very loving" parent to his own children. After Muhammad separated from his wife, he and his children spent weekends at Holmes's house. Holmes said Muhammad told him he intended to abduct his children, which he did in March 2000, taking them to Antigua.
Holmes also said Muhammad and Malvo worked out together and practiced target shooting with a Bushmaster rifle. The two also lived with him for up to two weeks at a time, and Holmes described Malvo as "happy-go-lucky, extremely well-mannered." Holmes did not describe any domination of Malvo by Muhammad, though he saw them together in September 2002, just as the sniper rampage was beginning.