The faces of nine slain shooting victims flashed on the large courtroom screen, smiling at the jury that began considering the fate of sniper Lee Boyd Malvo on Monday.Mr. Cooley:
One by one, Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. demanded justice. "We want justice for Sonny Buchanan," the veteran prosecutor gravely intoned. "We want justice for Premkumar Walekar. We want justice for Sarah Ramos. We want justice for Lori Lewis-Rivera . . . . "
He proceeded through a list of nine of the 10 people killed in three terror-filled weeks in the Washington area in fall 2002. "They have one thing in common," Horan said. "They're all dead, and they're all dead at the hands of this defendant. . . . There are prodigies among children. We see them in music, we see them in academics, we see them in athletics. And unfortunately, we also see prodigies in evil."
Horan argued that Malvo, 18, was the gunman not only in the shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, with which he was convicted last week, but also in the five shootings that occurred on Oct. 3, 2002, the second day of the sniper rampage. "They started out by killing innocent people before they even told the government why they were doing it," Horan said of Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, who was convicted last month of masterminding the sniper killings. "If there is such a thing as vileness, that is vileness."
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"Is the behavior of this defendant so outrageous that the penalty of death is called for? Is the behavior so outrageous?" Horan asked. "We submit, based on the evidence that is already before you, that the penalty of death is the appropriate verdict at this stage."
Defense lawyer Craig Cooley said in his closing that Malvo is not inherently evil but was shaped by those around him, particularly Muhammad.The prosecution (always given the last word) rebutted:
"There's no such thing as a self-made man," Cooley said. "Lee was uniquely susceptible to becoming attached to a father figure in the charismatic personage of John Muhammad."
Cooley said Malvo was susceptible to Muhammad because of his father's absences and because his mother beat him and moved him constantly.
"Children are not born evil. When they commit evil acts, you can almost always trace the acts to the evil that has been performed against them," Cooley said.
"We live in a society that force-feeds violence on our children, on television and in movies and in video games," Mr. Cooley said. "We glorify vengeance and we glorify violent responses to violence."
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Mr. Cooley asked jurors to consider their individual responsibility for imposing the death penalty, recalling that "in ancient times execution was a participatory activity." Jurors back then, he said, would stone the defendant to death and then retrieve their bloody weapons.
He walked to the counsel table and picked up a heavy stone, weighing it in his hand.
"Each of you must actively participate or, worse, acquiesce in that decision," Mr. Cooley said of the death penalty.
Mr. Cooley ended by standing over Mr. Malvo, placing a hand on his shoulder.
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Mr. Cooley concluded his emotional closing argument with a plea for Mr. Malvo's life. "It's a test of our humanity to condemn the acts but love the child," he said. "The choice here for you today is not death or freedom. The choice here is whether to take a human life or to send this child to a lifetime in prison.
"Don't be swayed by the voices of vengeance and retribution," he added. "Hold on to your compassion."
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Horan Jr. told jurors their decision is not about retribution. “It’s not vengeance we’re asking for,’’ Horan said. “It’s justice. We want justice for a lot of people. We want justice for Sonny Buchanan. We want justice for Premkumar Walekar. We want justice for Sarah Ramos. We want justice for Lori Lewis-Rivera. We want justice for Pascal Charlot. We want justice for Dean Meyers, Kenneth Bridges, Linda Franklin, Conrad Johnson.
“They have one thing in common. All those people, they are dead. And they’re all dead at the hands of this defendant,’’ Horan said, pointing to Malvo.
(2) More analysis of why the insanity defense was attempted.