Beltway Sniper Blues, Part I

Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, better known as the Beltway Snipers, are on trial in Maryland. Both men have already been convicted in Virginia and the parade of murder trials against the two men may have just begun.

I don’t want to talk about the fact that they both go by three names (a serial killer trend that one could spend months analyzing) or the specifics of the case. I want to talk about the current trial. Nobody really cares about this trial, it’s back page news (for the most part). The only reason it’s getting any press is because Muhammad is acting as his own lawyer. And in a surreal twist of events, he recently got the opportunity to cross examine his former partner in crime, the much younger (and impressionable) Malvo.

Malvo is 21 now; he was 17 when he began indiscriminately killing people with the 40 year old Muhammad. They broke just about every rule in the serial killer handbook (one of the reasons they were so hard to catch) and they killed ten people and wounded three others in their three week murder spree. If you were wondering; the main serial killer rules they broke were a) not being white and b) not working alone.

Muhammad is clearly fucking nuts. He reminds me of the Long Island Railroad killer Colin Ferguson, who massacred six people on a rush hour train in the mid 90’s. He wasn’t a serial killer (by definition, not body count) but he did act as his own attorney. It’s surprising to me that the court system allows these murderers to do this. Because, to me at least, it seems they are driven to do this out of the same egomaniacal impulses that led to their murderous rage. In other words, I don’t think we shouldn’t encourage this type of thinking.

I’ve always been a bit obsessed with serial killers (more so than could ever be described as normal) but I took an especially keen interest in the Beltway Snipers. After they were caught and they showed the world how they did it, I was amazed at the simplicity. Simply a car with the backseat collapsed and a hole in the drunk. It seemed eerily easy; I was shocked they had caught them so soon.

So they went to jail, and everybody in the Beltway area (and beyond) slept a little sounder. The Beltway Sniper Murder Trial Tour is in full swing and it might be heading back to Virginia after they’re done in Maryland. Muhammad’s already been sentenced to death (in the first trial), so I really don’t see the point of keeping him alive.

Maybe some social psychologist wanted to see what would happen when he fired his lawyer and took over the defense himself; and because they’re being tried separately, the subsequent cross examination of his partner Lee Boyd Malvo.

Here is part of a report off of with a portion of the court transcripts (so you can see what I mean):

“Initially, Muhammad focused on very fact-based questions about where cars were parked during specific shootings, about the gun store in Washington state where Lee Boyd Malvo says that they stole the Bushmaster rifle.

But then the questions got personal. And he started talking to Malvo about their relationship and about his guilty plea in the state of Virginia. And Malvo explained yes he had, indeed, pled guilty in the state of Virginia by reason of insanity.

And Muhammad asked, quote, “Who decided you were insane?”

And Malvo said it was a plea of indoctrination. There were experts who say I was indoctrinated.

And then Muhammad asked Malvo to define indoctrination.

Malvo said, quote, “Indoctrination is a process under which the person who, myself, who came under your influence, is brought to do things he would not have done on his own.”

Then Muhammad pursued a very interesting line of questioning, trying to get Malvo to admit one can be indoctrinated to do positive things. He had a back and forth exchange where Malvo described a situation where he saved two of Muhammad’s children from drowning. And Muhammad said, “Did I indoctrinate you to do that?”

And Malvo said, “I did that because I loved them.”

And but it was very interesting to see Malvo standing up to Muhammad even more today. When they were talking about fact-based questions, where cars were parked, and Muhammad asked Malvo, “Can you show us where the vehicle was allegedly parked.”

And Malvo says, “Not allegedly, the vehicle was parked right there.”

Or when Muhammad challenged Malvo’s testimony that they planned in advance that Malvo would plead guilty to the killings, that he would take the fall because he was a young man and he wouldn’t be put to death. And so Muhammad said, “So you said basically we was planning to get caught?”

And Malvo said, “You did the planning, Mr. Muhammad.””


I think you’ve got to feel bad for Malvo (as much as anyone can “feel bad” for a serial killer’s apprentice). He was 17 and had no guidance whatsoever. I’m not sure if this guy should spend the rest of his natural life in prison.

I think his soul might be worth saving.

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