DC sniper Lee Boyd Malvo to ask Supreme Court for new sentence

0
8


In this Oct. 20, 2003 file photo, Lee Boyd Malvo listens to court proceedings during the trial of fellow sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad in Virginia Beach, Va.

Martin Smith-Rodden | Pool | AP

One of the men who terrorized the Washington area in a spree of killings in the fall of 2002, which became known as the “D.C. sniper attacks,” will have another day in court on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court will hear from attorneys for Lee Boyd Malvo, who alongside John Allen Muhammad killed 10 people and injured others in the random-seeming attacks that took place 17 years ago and paralyzed the nation’s capital.

Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the killings, is asking the court to allow him to be resentenced because a pair of Supreme Court cases in recent years held that courts must consider a minor’s age before sentencing him or her to life without parole.

The case is the latest to come before the court asking the justices to carve out distinct rules for children convicted of heinous crimes. Starting in 2005, the court held that minors cannot be sentenced to death. In subsequent years, the court also barred sentences of life-without-parole for offenses other than murder.

The cases that Malvo is relying on concern mandatory life without parole sentences for minors. The Supreme Court barred such sentences in 2012, in a case called Miller v. Alabama that held that they violated the Eighth Amendment.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for a 5-4 majority, wrote that sentencers must “take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison.”

Four years later, the top court applied that rule retroactively in Montgomery v. Louisiana.

Given those cases, the federal appeals court based in Richmond said last year that Malvo is entitled to be re-sentenced.

“Malvo was 17 years old when he committed the murders, and he now has the retroactive benefit of new constitutional rules that treat juveniles differently for sentencing,” the court reasoned.

Virginia asked the Supreme Court to review that decision, and has argued in court papers that Malvo’s sentence — four life terms without parole — was not mandatory, and therefore not covered by the court’s previous cases. In March, the justices agreed to hear the case.

The case has spurred conflicting briefs from powerful forces. The Trump administration, represented by Solicitor General Noel Francisco, has filed a brief siding with Virginia. So too did 15 states led by Indiana and the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center.

Siding with Malvo in the matter is the American Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Juvenile Law Center.

Those arguing on behalf of Malvo make the case that, in cases involving juveniles, the Supreme Court effectively barred more than just mandatory sentences of life without parole. Rather, they say, the court’s reasoning also requires that judges treat minors differently, accounting for factors like immaturity and vulnerability.

The top court was “unambiguous in barring life without parole sentences imposed without this Court’s constitutionally required consideration of specific qualities of youth,” Marsha Levick, the co-founder of the Juvenile Law Center, wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief.

It is unlikely that Malvo, who is now 34, will ever be released from prison, even if his sentence is reduced.

In addition to his four life sentences in Virginia, he has also been sentenced to multiple life sentences in Maryland. Other states could also pursue murder charges.

But the case is likely to set precedents for future cases involving those who were sentenced as minors.

A decision in the case, known as Randall Mathena v. Lee Boyd Malvo, No. 18-217, is expected by the end of June.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here