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Muhammad May Testify For Malvo

Attorneys for sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo have subpoenaed convicted mastermind John Allen Muhammad to testify, raising the possibility that Muhammad could speak on the younger man's behalf.

"We'd like to hear the truth," Malvo's attorney, Craig Cooley, said when asked what information he wants from Muhammad. Malvo's lawyers are presenting an insanity defense, claiming Muhammad brainwashed their teenage client and molded him into a killer.

It's not certain Muhammad will be willing to testify, though.

Muhammad, whose trial ended last week with a Virginia Beach jury recommending the death sentence, still faces prosecution in several other states.

His attorneys don't want to do anything to aid those prosecutions, in the hope they can get the Virginia death sentence overturned on appeal or reduced by the trial judge when Muhammad is formally sentenced in February.

Last Tuesday, Malvo prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. said the chance that Muhammad will take the stand in the Malvo case is "zero." But Cooley said he has not received any notification from Muhammad's lawyers that they will try to quash the subpoena.

Muhammad's lawyers could try to quash the subpoena and prevent Muhammad from even showing up in court. He also could come to court and refuse to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Muhammad, 42, and Malvo, 18, are charged in or linked to the killing of 10 people and the wounding of six in the Washington area in September-October 2002, plus shootings in Washington state, Arizona, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana.

Prince William Circuit Court Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. has the option to reduce Muhammad's sentence from death to life in prison, although Virginia judges rarely overturn a jury's recommendation in a capital case.

CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen was skeptical that Muhammad would actually appear.

"The only way Muhammad takes the stand and testifies in favor of Malvo is if Muhammad himself makes a decision that he is doomed anyway following his conviction and death sentence recommendation, so he might as well help out the young man," Cohen said. "But that's a long-shot, especially when you consider that Muhammad could face many more sniper trials before it's all over."

Malvo's jury has been sworn to avoid any publicity in the Muhammad case. That may be difficult, however, given the intense media coverage of the cases and the two trials held in courthouses just 15 miles apart.

The Virginian-Pilot, the local newspaper, ran the headline "IT'S DEATH" in type large enough to be read from many yards away the morning after the Muhammad jury reached its decision.

Cooley said he takes jurors at their word that they have avoided any news accounts of the trials, but he also said he does not know how the Muhammad decision would influence jurors if they were aware of it.

On the one hand, a jury might feel pressure to reach the same verdict that was given to Muhammad. But if they are reticent to recommend execution for a teenager who was 17 at the time of the sniper spree, the Muhammad verdict may in a sense let them off the hook.

"I think you could make a good argument both ways whether it's a benefit or a detriment," Cooley said.

Muhammad was convicted for the murder of Dean Harold Meyers on Oct. 9, 2002, in Manassas, one of the 13 sniper shootings — 10 of them fatal — that terrorized the Washington area last year.

Malvo is charged with killing Linda Franklin at a Home Depot store in Fairfax County, but to get the death penalty prosecutors must prove the shooting was one of multiple killings or part of a plan to terrorize the area.

Virginia has executed 89 people since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, including two this year, according the Death Penalty Information Center. While 38 states have the death penalty, Virginia is one of 22 that execute persons under the age of 18.

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