CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- Lee Boyd Malvo did not know right from wrong during last year's sniper spree because of intense indoctrination by sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad, two defense psychiatrists testified yesterday at Malvo's trial.
"Lee was unable to distinguish between right and wrong and was unable to resist the impulse" to commit the sniper killings, said Neil Blumberg, who examined Malvo 20 times in jail.
Psychiatrist Diane Schetky, who twice interviewed Malvo, also testified that Malvo, 17 years old at the time of the killings, agreed with the diagnosis.
The inability to tell right from wrong is the legal standard for insanity in Virginia.
Defense mental health specialists have said Malvo was taught by Muhammad that right and wrong are artificial concepts and that the winner in a war determines who is right and who is wrong. Muhammad likened the sniper attacks to a war against the US government, which he said oppresses blacks.
On cross-examination, Schetky said she believes Malvo did know right from wrong before the sniper spree, when he shot and killed Keenya Cook on Feb. 16, 2002, in Tacoma, Wash.
That shooting was the first committed by Malvo, eight months before the sniper shootings in and around Washington, D.C., that left 10 dead.
Malvo believed Muhammad would reject him if he did not kill Cook, Schetky said.
Malvo's attorneys are presenting an insanity defense to capital murder charges in the death of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, who was shot on Oct. 14, 2002, outside a Home Depot.
Schetky diagnosed Malvo with a dissociative disorder, a mental illness that she said distorted Malvo's perception of reality, a result of indoctrination by Muhammad.
She testified that Malvo "displayed a pathological loyalty to Muhammad" during his confession in which he took responsibility for being the triggerman in all the D.C.-area shootings.
Malvo has since recanted and said Muhammad was the triggerman in nearly all the shootings. A jury convicted Muhammad last month and recommended he be put to death.
Schetky said Malvo felt conflicted about the Oct. 7, 2002, shooting of 13-year-old Iran Brown outside a Bowie, Md., middle school. He thought killing children "was very wrong . . . but he was complying with the plan." She said he was "relieved the shot did not kill him."
Prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. has suggested the conflicted feelings prove Malvo knew right from wrong.