Saturday, December 21, 2002

The NY Times reports today that investigators working on the DC sniper case now think Jamaican teengager Lee Boyd Malvo was the gunman in all the attacks — there's little evidence that John Allen Muhammed himself actually pulled the trigger.

"Some officials who have reviewed the evidence at the sniper task force's new headquarters here in suburban Virginia say that the lack of evidence against Mr. Muhammad will complicate prosecutors' efforts to get a death sentence for him in the shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, who was killed at a gas station in Manassas on Oct. 9."

This opens the possibility that Malvo, though a minor, could be sentenced to death for the murder spree, while Muhammed, his mentor, gets a prison sentence.

Incidentally, the Washington Post reported a couple days ago that Malvo's been complaining about the food he's being served in jail:

"Teenage sniper suspect John Lee Malvo says the vegetarian 'loaf' he is being fed in jail has made him sick, the latest in a series of complaints he has lodged about his treatment at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

"Malvo's court-appointed guardian, Todd G. Petit, requested last month that Malvo be fed the loaf after a judge denied a request that Malvo be provided with vegetarian meals.... This week, Petit told jail officials that the loaf hasn't agreed with Malvo, and he renewed a request for some other type of meatless menu.

"Jail officials have denied the request and said Malvo would have the same food choices as other inmates."

The judge's decision apparently hinged on the question of whether Malvo's vegetarianism is a "religious belief" or a "preference".

Understandably, sympathy for Malvo in the US (& elsewhere) is non-existent; it's for precisely that reason that in cases like this legal principles (like the presumption of innocence until otherwise proven) ought to be zealously upheld. An adequate diet is one of Malvo's basic rights as a prisoner, whether he's a mass murderer or not. Vegetarian myself (& not for reasons of "religious belief", but certainly for reasons more compelling than "preference"), I think the authorities' refusal of his dietary request amounts to cruel & unusual punishment.

The Post does not say whether the Jamaican consulate has seen fit to get involved in the matter.

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