Chesapeake, Va. -- The jury in the Washington sniper case today spared Lee Boyd Malvo from the death penalty, the fate awaiting his mentor John Allen Muhammad, after his lawyers portrayed him as an impressionable boy who had fallen under Muhammad's murderous spell.
Malvo, 18, will be instead be locked away for the rest of his life.
Malvo, wearing a blue sweater that made him look like a schoolboy, sat expressionless, with his elbows on the defence table.
The jury took 8-1/2 hours over two days to decide his fate.
Last month, Muhammad, 42, was convicted of murder in nearby Virginia Beach, and the jury recommended he get the death penalty. The judge has yet to impose sentence.
Prosecutors had argued that death was the only appropriate sentence for Malvo, who was convicted of murder last week in the shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin. She was cut down by a single bullet to the head in one of 10 slayings that gripped the Washington area with fear for three weeks in October 2002. Malvo was 17 at the time.
Prosecutor Robert Horan argued that the killings were part of a scheme to extort $10 million (U.S.) from the government and that Malvo was the triggerman in most if not all of the slayings. Horan rejected the notion that Malvo was less responsible for his crimes because he had come under the influence of Muhammad.