As witnesses have testified about him and lawyers have talked about him, sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo (search) has been sketching with a flexible pencil that's supposed to be stab-proof.
Just before Malvo's trial began Nov. 10, a Richmond (search) company that makes products for jails and prisons that cannot be turned into weapons happened to send the Chesapeake (search) jail some samples of a pencil constructed entirely from plastic.
The sheriff's department decided to let Malvo try out the pencils, which are soft and bendable, knew he was a drawer, so we thought he would be a good test of the product," said Lt. Col. David Newby, chief deputy.
Malvo has been using the pencils to sketch the courtroom and witnesses on the stand. On Wednesday, while the jury deliberated and Malvo was in a room off the courtroom, a sheriff's deputy came into the courtroom and used a sharpener belonging to one of the sketch artists to sharpen a pencil for Malvo.
Don Carpenter, president of pencil-maker Securitas Inc., said the body and lead both are made out of plastic.
"We sell that [pencil] all over the country," Carpenter said.
Part of the company's marketing strategy is to send sample products to jails and prisons nationwide, Carpenter said. The pencils Malvo is using were not sent to Chesapeake for that trial in particular, Carpenter said.
The company hears from jail and prison officials on what kinds of products they need, such as toothbrushes and mirrors, and then develops them, Carpenter said.
No item is completely risk-free, Newby said, noting, "You can take an eye out with a feather, because of the quill."
But these pencils have seemed to work out well, and the department is considering buying more of the pencils for other inmates, Newby said.