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Malvo's Attorneys Address Reporters

Aired October 1, 2003 - 13:15   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: First up, we're going to take you live to Manassas, Virginia. Right now, one of the attorneys speaking in a case everyone's been paying attention to, the chilling reunion of the Washington-area sniper suspects, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo.

CRAIG COOLEY, MALVO DEFENSE ATTY.: I thought Judge Millette maintained a perfectly fine decorum within the courtroom. I understood the argument that whenever there's significant media coverage that any appearance by a co-defendant in a case such as this is going to generate interest. But I -- I certainly wouldn't describe the decorum within the courtroom as circus-like.

QUESTION: Some of our views were blocked at different times. But can you tell us from your unobstructed point of view did Lee Malvo ever make eye contact with Mr. Muhammad? Did Mr. Muhammad try to make eye contact with Mr. Malvo? What did you make of it?

COOLEY: That was not the focus of where I was looking. I was -- I was trying to pay particularly close attention to the questions Mr. Ebert (ph) was putting forward. It did appear to me that both made some eye contact.


QUESTION: ... there was fear of trepidation about them being in the same courtroom. Did any of you have a chance to confer with Mr. Malvo after the appearance and find out if things had been what he expected? How he reacted to being in the same room?

COOLEY: We've not had that opportunity yet. He's still in the process of being moved back to jail facility.

QUESTION: Mr. Ripa and your co-counsel who were on the other side, looking toward Mr. Malvo, I was sitting directly behind you. He was definitely looking toward Muhammad. And I think you were trying to pull his interest in your direction?

MICHAEL ARIF, MALVO DEFENSE ATTY.: I was trying to see what he was looking at, whether he was looking in our direction. But I don't know if he was looking at Mr. Muhammad or at something else. I don't tell where he was looking exactly.

QUESTION: Have you discussed this with him before this hearing not to look at him? ARIF: No, not at all.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE), is it common court protocol that a commonwealth attorney would bring in somebody like that, to testify in court whether or not they planned to testify in court?

COOLEY: Well, there's several ways that it can be accomplished. But it's an ethical violation for an attorney to call a witness in front -- in the presence of a jury, knowing they're going to assert the Fifth Amendment privilege.

It's also, I think, important for all trial counsel to know whether somebody does intend to assert the Fifth Amendment privilege because from an evidentiary standpoint it opens some other avenues of production of evidence.

So there are a variety of ways to do it. And this is one. There are others. And each judge has to exercise their discretion as to how they allow it to be handled.

QUESTION: Do you think Malvo's appearance before the trial is going to be prejudicial to Muhammad?

COOLEY: Do I think that Lee's appearance in the courtroom -- it should not be a factor to a jury, I don't believe. But I -- I can't answer what might or might not impact a jury pool.

QUESTION: What advice did you give to your client before his arrival today on how to conduct himself in the courtroom?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We won't comment on that at this time.

COOLEY: That -- that would be a privileged response and I really can't comment on that.

QUESTION: Mr. Arif, you've made it clear that you have the opinion the defense will assert that Mr. Muhammad asserted a Svenghali-like influence over Malvo, manipulated Malvo.

Would you have preferred that the 18-year-old not come to court today and have to face Mr. Malvo (sic) given the fact that he now seems to be trusting you, as you've said, more and more?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was comfortable. I think I speak with the entire defense team in having him brought in today and letting him at least see someone -- Mr. Muhammad who he hasn't seen in almost a year. I was comfortable with it. I think the rest of the defense team was as well.

QUESTION: Do you think Mr. Ruske's (ph) made some progress as -- as has been reported before in his personality that this could possibly be a setback or this bolster his progress to say, You know what? I got over that hurdle and now I can move on and concentrate on my own trial in November?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well my answer would be speculative but I'll let you know on Tuesday.

QUESTION: So how does that work? Is he going to have to come back on Tuesday? Are we going to have to go through, again, more questioning with Mr. Malvo, Mr. Muhammad in the courtroom?

COOLEY: That appears to be the case. The judge has indicated they're going to receive a proper (ph) of what questions are going to be presented to Mr. Malvo and we will then make a determination of whether he will answer or not answer.

QUESTION: But I guess whether puzzles me at least is if he won't even say if he knew him and won't talk about what they were doing in the United States, what background questions are there that he would answer? It doesn't seem like he's going to speak about anything concerning Muhammad.

COOLEY: Well, Lee had a short life -- 13, 14 years, before anyone even alleges that he encountered Mr. Muhammad. So that's a substantial amount of background area that is certainly in and of itself is not incriminating or a response to a question related to that would not be incriminating.

But that's the area that I would assume we have no objection on.

PHILLIPS: It's the first time the defendants have seen each other since they've been arrested in almost one year. We're talking about John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo. Of course, the two Washington-area sniper suspects.

Right now, the pretrial hearing taking place. Malvo's attorneys, Craig Cooley and Michael Arif, addressing reporters right now. All eyes basically on Malvo today, wondering what type of influence Muhammad might have over him. The two attorneys talking about the two defendants in court. Our Jeanne Meserve is in Manassas, Virginia. She's following it for us. She will bring us more information as it develops.


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