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Lawyers for Teen Sniper Suspect to Argue Insanity

Lee Boyd Malvo (search)'s lawyers said Thursday they will mount an insanity defense at his murder trial in the Washington sniper case, arguing that the teenager was a victim of "indoctrination" by the older John Allen Muhammad (search).

"This case is so bizarre in its facts, and the degree of indoctrination is so severe, that we would be remiss if we failed" to put the sanity issue before a jury, said Craig Cooley, a lawyer for the 18-year-old Malvo.

The prosecutor in the case, Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., said that he has reviewed the reports of a court-appointed mental-health expert and that there was nothing to suggest mental illness on Malvo's part.

"It says absolutely nothing about insanity," Horan said. "Apparently it's a late-blooming insanity."

But Cooley said the insanity defense is not based on the work of the court-appointed expert, but on experts who were retained privately and examined Malvo.

Cooley said that indoctrination is a form of mental illness and that it will ultimately be up to a jury to decide if it amounts to insanity.

Meanwhile, in Manassas, the judge in the Muhammad case ruled Thursday that the 42-year-old Muhammad cannot present any mental-health evidence at his own trial because he refused to submit to an examination sought by prosecutors.

In previous motions and hearings, Malvo's lawyers have argued their client had been brainwashed was "under the spell" of Muhammad, but Thursday's pre-trial hearing was the first reference to an insanity defense.

For the defense to work, Malvo's lawyers will have to show jurors that it was more likely than not that Malvo could not tell right from wrong at the time of the shootings.

If found innocent by reason of insanity, Malvo would be committed to mental hospital until he is found to no longer be a threat. But he also faces several other charges in Virginia and other states.

Virginia law requires that Malvo now submit to another mental-health examination, this time by an expert selected by prosecutors, if he wants to present the insanity defense to jurors.

At Thursday's hearing, Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush rejected prosecutors' first choice, forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz, after the defense argued that prosecutors also had selected Dietz to examine Muhammad.

Horan said that did not create a conflict because Muhammad refused to be examined by Dietz. But Roush agreed with Cooley that a conflict still existed because Dietz had already reviewed confidential files in the Muhammad case.

Malvo is set to go on trial Nov. 10 in the slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin (search) outside a Home Depot store. She was among 13 people who were shot, 10 fatally, during a three-week spree in the Washington, D.C., are last fall.

Muhammad goes on trial Tuesday in the slaying of man who was pumping gas near Manassas.

Both trials were moved 200 miles to southeastern Virginia.

Muhammad's lawyers have argued that Malvo was the triggerman, while Malvo's defense team has contended that the teenager was acting under the influence of the older man.

Both defendants could be sentenced to death if convicted.

Along with the 13 shootings in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., the two are suspected in or charged with shootings in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Arizona and Washington state.