CHESAPEAKE, Va. - In his closing argument in the sentencing phase of the trial of Lee Boyd Malvo, the lead prosecutor compared Malvo to child prodigies gifted in music or athletics.
"Unfortunately," prosecutor Robert Horan Jr. said Monday, "we also see prodigies in evil."
Craig Cooley, one of Malvo's lawyers, also emphasized his client's age in his own closing argument. Malvo was 17 when he shot Linda Franklin, a 47-year-old FBI analyst, in last fall's sniper rampage in the Washington area.
"The acts are despicable," Cooley said. "The child is not."
The jurors deliberated for three hours without coming to a decision. They must decide whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison. On Thursday, they convicted Malvo of two counts of capital murder.
To recommend the death penalty, they must decide prosecutors have proved one or both of two aggravating factors: that Malvo's conduct was vile or that he remains dangerous. Horan said there was ample evidence on both points.
He said the snipers' goal of extorting $10 million from the government was "vileness."
To prove that Malvo remains dangerous, Horan pointed to an escape attempt on the day he was arrested in November 2002, to violent jailhouse drawings by Malvo and to recent letters counseling another prisoner about how to escape.
In one of the drawings, made in February, Malvo shows the White House through a sniper scope. "Sept. 11 we will ensure will look like a picnic for you," Malvo wrote under it. "You would have wished it was like my little 'sniper attacks.'"
Horan said that Malvo, now 18, was the partner of John Muhammad, 42, in "an unholy team."
Cooley portrayed his client as immature and susceptible to Muhammad's influence. Malvo was 15 when the two met and 17 at the time of the shootings, ages at which, Cooley noted, Malvo could not vote, sit on a jury or legally buy alcohol.