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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Decision on Admissibility of Sniper Suspect's Confession

Aired May 6, 2003 - 10:03   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We do want to get this breaking news in here, Leon. It is coming out of the sniper case, Lee Boyd Malvo, the man who is now 18 but who was the 17-year-old suspect in that case. The defendant was in a special hearing last week. A judge has made a decision concerning a confession that he allegedly made.
And for more on that, let's bring our Jeanne Meserve in on what the judge has decided.

Jeanne -- good morning.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, last week, there were arguments as to whether or not to suppress the interrogation of Lee Boyd Malvo that took place when he was in sort of a legal limbo. Federal charges in Maryland had been dismissed. He'd been brought to Virginia, but not yet made a court appearance there.

His defense attorneys went to court to try and suppress this interrogation in which Malvo allegedly talked about many of the sniper shootings.

Today, a decision from Judge Jane Marum Roush. She has issued something of a split decision here. This was a very extensive interview. There were several hours early on when the detective and the FBI agent, who were interrogating Malvo, were trying to loosen him up. They fed him some veggie burgers. They talked to him about his background.

The judge has decided that none of that conversation, of which notes were taken, will be admissible in court. However, he was eventually read his Miranda rights, and he was offered, according to one of the detectives who conducted this interrogation, was offered an opportunity to see a lawyer four different times in four different ways. He said, no. It is that part of the interrogation which the judge has now said will be admissible in the trial of Mr. Malvo.

Here is a look of some of what that interrogation involved.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): On November 7, Lee Boyd Malvo was questioned here at Fairfax County police headquarters by FBI special agent Brad Garrett and homicide detective June Boyle. According to Boyle, Malvo asked, "Do I get to see my attorneys?" Prosecutors say that was not a request to see a lawyer, and none was provided.

But defense attorneys say that made the interrogation illegal. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means, "I want to see my attorney." And I think everyone -- I don't there is anyone who would interpret that to mean anything else other than he wants to see his attorney.

MESERVE: It is with good reason that defense attorneys have tried to keep notes and transcripts of the interrogation out of the trial. Court documents describe Malvo as rather boastful and sometimes laughing during the questioning. For instance, Boyle testified during the suppression hearing that when Malvo talked about the shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin -- quote: "I asked him where he shot her. He laughed, and pointed to his head. He was laughing, telling me it was really funny."

Boyle also testified that Malvo laughed about shooting James Sonny Buchanan, saying that after Buchanan fell, the lawn mower he had been using kept rolling.

According to court documents, Malvo said his co-defendant, John Muhammad, acted as his spotter and helper. They were equals, Malvo said, in a military-style operation, and either man could call a particular shot on or off.

"The Washington Post," which obtained portions of a summary of the interrogation, reports that Malvo also discussed the killings of Dean Meyers at a Manassas, Virginia gas station, and bus driver Conrad Johnson in Aspen Hill, Maryland, as well as the wounding of Maryland middle school student, Iran Brown.

The prosecutor says Malvo's intent was to terrorize the community, and force the police to pay $10 million to stop the shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think you can take Mr. Malvo at his word, which is, if you want us to stop the killing, pay us the money.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: Now, prosecutors have said that even if they didn't have this interrogation, they have enough physical evidence to prosecute this case, they believe, successfully. This is clearly a setback for defense attorneys. However, they wouldn't speculate on how serious a blow it was last week at the conclusion of arguments.

Daryn -- back to you.

KAGAN: And, Jeanne, if I'm not mistaken, that trial is set to begin this fall.

MESERVE: That's correct. And Mr. Muhammad's trial as well will take place this fall.

KAGAN: Jeanne Meserve in Washington, thank you for the latest on that breaking news.

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