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Malvo Insanity Defense Planned

Sniper suspect Lee Body Malvo pleaded innocent to murder Monday as his trial was opening in the slaying of an FBI analyst shot to death during the three-week sniper spree in the Washington, D.C., area last fall.

The 18-year-old responded, "Not guilty," in a clear voice each time when asked for his plea to two counts of capital murder and to one count of using a firearm in a felony.

He politely responded, "Yes, ma'am," when the judge asked if he was ready for trial.

Defense attorney Craig Cooley told Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush that he plans to present a defense of innocent by reason of insanity.

Before the arraignment, defense attorneys asked Roush to dismiss one of the capital murder charges, which alleges that Malvo committed an act of terrorism when he allegedly shot Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot in northern Virginia.

Defense attorney Mark Petrovich argued that the grand jury's indictment was tainted. Petrovich noted that the judge had moved trials about 200 miles to Chesapeake partly because northern Virginia residents were terrorized by the sniper spree. He said the grand jury also should have been moved.

The judge denied the defense request, saying, "I never heard of such a thing as a change of venue for a grand jury."

Defense lawyers plan to argue that Malvo was so brainwashed by fellow suspect John Allen Muhammad, 42, that he either did not know what he was doing or could not control himself.

Prosecutors in nearby Virginia Beach are trying to convince a jury that Muhammad exerted such control over Malvo that Muhammad should be held responsible for the shootings that killed 10 and wounded three in the Washington area last fall.

Defense lawyers for Malvo intend to present a similar case.

"Our strategy is their strategy," Malvo lawyer Michael Arif said. "If you watch the prosecutors (in Muhammad's case) carefully, they will never put on evidence that Lee was the shooter in any of the shootings in question."

The defendants are being tried for different killings by prosecutors from two Virginia counties. Both face the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

Each man is on trial for only for one killing, but to get the death penalty, the prosecution needs to prove participation in multiple killings or terrorizing of the public.

Prosecutors from Fairfax County say Malvo has admitted committing many of the shootings.

Malvo's lawyers argue that he confessed only to protect Muhammad, whom he called father, and that Muhammad was the mastermind of the sniper attacks.

Even if that is true, the prosecutors argue, Malvo is equally responsible for the killings. They say he laughed and bragged about the shootings to interrogators and prison guards.

CBS News Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen agrees that Malvo's lawyers will attempt to portray him as a victim of Muhammad's influence.

"Even if jurors somehow buy into that notion, it's likely only to spare Malvo's life," says Cohen. "It certainly won't mean an acquittal."

CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston reports that Malvo's attorneys may also cite the influence on Malvo of "The Matrix" movie series, which is based on the idea of an alternate universe in which computers exert mind control.

For Malvo's attorneys to succeed with an insanity defense, they must convince a jury that he was so brainwashed by Muhammad that he either did not know what he was doing or could not control himself. It likely will be a tough sell - and risky.

Studies have indicated that defendants who mount insanity defenses generally have higher conviction rates than those who don't, said Thomas L. Hafemeister, director of legal studies at the Institute for Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy in Charlottesville.

Insanity defenses are raised in about 1 percent of felony cases in the United States, and heard by juries in even fewer, Hafemeister said.

Also working against Malvo might be the emotional power of some of the evidence the prosecution is likely to present, CBS News Early Show National Correspondent Thalia Assuras reports.

Franklin, a 47-year-old from Arlington, Va., was the 11th person shot and the ninth to die in the Washington-area sniper rampage. Franklin and her husband, Ted, were loading boards for bookcases into their car in the parking lot of a Home Depot when, prosecutors say, Malvo fired the shot that killed her.

Listening to Ted Franklin's 911 call, played inside the Muhammad courtroom but not released publicly, was extremely emotional, even for seasoned reporters. Jurors wept.

In the string of sniper attacks last fall, it remains unclear who actually pulled the trigger in each of the shootings.

Investigators have testified that Malvo's fingerprints were on the .223-caliber rifle used in the sniper killings, and that his DNA or fingerprints were found on evidence from several of the scenes.

Muhammad's prosecutors argue it doesn't matter who pulled the trigger and say Muhammad, who referred to Malvo as his son and plunged him into a lifestyle of rigor and discipline, was the "moving spirit." That most of the evidence can be traced to Malvo only shows how carefully Muhammad controlled the situation, they contend.

Malvo's jury trial was moved to Chesapeake, 200 miles south of Fairfax, because of extensive news coverage and the climate of fear the shootings had created in the Washington area. Muhammad's trial was moved to Virginia Beach for the same reasons.

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