CHESAPEAKE, Va. – The jury in the murder trial of Lee Boyd Malvo (search) got the case Tuesday after his lawyer argued the teenager fell completely under the spell of mastermind John Allen Muhammad (search) when he took part in the Washington sniper shootings.
Defense lawyer Michael Arif said Malvo, desperate for a father figure, found the wrong man to emulate in Muhammad and eventually became "a cult of one" with Muhammad as his leader.
"Lee could no more separate himself from John Muhammad than you could separate from your shadow on a sunny day," Arif told the jury.
"He was not the idea man. He was a puppet, molded like a piece of clay by John Muhammad," Arif said.
But prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. said Malvo was as responsible as Muhammad, calling the pair "peas in a pod."
"Their belief, as wild and vicious as it was, was that if they killed enough people, the government would come around" and meet their demand for $10 million, Horan said.
Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush sent the case to the jury just after 4 p.m. Tuesday. They picked a foreman and were sent home until deliberations begin Wednesday morning.
Malvo's attorneys have argued the 18-year-old was temporarily insane because of Muhammad's brainwashing, causing him to blur the distinction between right and wrong.
In closing arguments, Arif told the jury that Malvo was "the last victim of John Muhammad."
But Horan said Malvo and Muhammad both share the blame.
"Their willingness to kill, and do it for money, is common to both of them," he said.
Malvo is charged with the Oct. 14, 2002, slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin (search) during the three-week rampage in the Washington, D.C., area.
Horan urged the jury to accept Malvo's confession to police last year. Malvo subsequently recanted, telling defense psychiatrists he confessed to being the triggerman to protect Muhammad, whom he saw as a father figure.
But Horan scoffed at Malvo's backtracking, saying it came only after months of prodding from "the mental health crowd."
The jury must decide Malvo was the triggerman in Franklin's death for him to be eligible for the death penalty on one of two capital murder counts. The second capital murder count, which alleges Franklin's death was an act of terrorism, does not require that Malvo be the triggerman.
Arif asked the jury to impose first-degree murder if they reject the insanity defense, saying Malvo was not the triggerman and was not the one who wanted to extort the government.
Arif said the shot that killed Franklin, a head shot from 152 yards away, more likely came from Muhammad, who was an expert marksman in the Army.
"Who takes a shot like that? A man with experience. A man who's been in the military," Arif said. "Frankly, not a punk kid."
In his closing, Horan played the tapes of Malvo's confession and showed the jury grisly crime-scene photos. Arif repeatedly invoked Muhammad's name, finishing his presentation by projecting a menacing photo of Muhammad on a courtroom screen.
The judge ruled Tuesday that the jury will not be permitted to consider whether Malvo was acting under an "irresistible impulse."
Roush said Malvo could still go forward with his insanity defense, but denied his lawyers' request to give the jury instructions on how an irresistible impulse relates to insanity.
The law states that if a criminal cannot control an irresistible impulse, he could be considered legally insane.
Muhammad, 42, was convicted of capital murder last month in nearby Virginia Beach. The jury recommended he be put to death for the slaying of Dean Harold Meyers at a northern Virginia gas station.