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DC Sniper to Be Resentenced for Rampage That Killed 10

August 29, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
DC Sniper to Be Resentenced for Rampage That Killed 10
This photo provided by the Virginia Department of Corrections shows Lee Boyd Malvo. (Virginia Department of Corrections via AP)

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — A Maryland court set off controversy over juvenile justice by ruling Friday that a murderer convicted of killing six people must be resentenced because he was 17 years old at the time.

The convict, Lee Boyd Malvo, was one of two people known as the D.C. snipers after a three-week rampage in the Washington, D.C., area in 2002.

Together, they are accused of killing 10 innocent people who happened to be nearby when they fired a high-powered rifle from their passing car.

Malvo’s accomplice, John Allen Muhammad, received the death penalty in Virginia in 2009. 

Malvo received six consecutive life sentences in Maryland, which the Maryland Court of Appeals says violates a Supreme Court ruling since the killings. He received separate life sentences in Virginia.

The core of the dispute is whether Malvo acted with “transient immaturity” because of his age or his behavior represented “permanent incorrigibility.”

Since he was sentenced, the U.S. Supreme Court has revised its rulings on punishment of juvenile offenders.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that mandatory life imprisonment terms without parole — similar to Malvo — violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The court in the 2012 Miller v. Alabama case said sentences of life without parole could be allowed but only after a court considers individual circumstances and maturity level of a convicted murderer.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled in Jones v. Mississippi that a court must determine whether juvenile murderers are “permanently incorrigible” before sentencing them to life in prison. Incorrigible means a person cannot be corrected, improved or reformed.

Malvo’s attorneys argued he was under the influence of the older Muhammad, who was 41 years old at the time of the rampage. The prosecutor at Malvo’s sentencing described Muhammad as an “evil man.”

Malvo, 37, says he has reformed himself while imprisoned at the supermax Red Onion State Prison in Virginia. If true, it would mean he does not show signs of “permanent incorrigibility.”

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruling last week said the Montgomery County judge who sentenced Malvo might have made a mistake.

On one hand, he acknowledged that Malvo showed remorse and appeared to have changed by the time he was sentenced on Nov. 8, 2006.

On the other hand, he imposed life sentences without possibility of parole, which would not be allowed under later Supreme Court rulings.

When he sentenced Malvo, Montgomery County Circuit Judge James Ryan said, “It appears you’ve changed since you were first taken into custody in 2002. As a child, you had no one to establish values or foundations for you. After you met John Allen Muhammad and became influenced by him, your chances for a successful life became worse than they already were.”

He added, “You’ve shown remorse and you’ve asked for forgiveness. Forgiveness is between you and your God, and personally, between you and your victims, and the families of your victims. This community, represented by its people and the laws, does not forgive you.”

Maryland’s highest court said the judge’s statements create “conflicting inferences” that Malvo might have demonstrated “transient immaturity” showing a need for leniency but was sentenced as if he were “permanently incorrigible.”

No date has been set yet for the resentencing.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said last week he would seek the maximum sentences for Malvo at the resentencing, most likely life in prison.

Even if Malvo receives a lighter sentence in Maryland, there is no guarantee he will get out of prison in Virginia, where he and Muhammad killed four people.

“We hold only that the Eighth Amendment requires that he receive a new sentencing hearing at which the sentencing court, now cognizant of the principles elucidated by the Supreme Court, is able to consider whether or not he is constitutionally eligible for life without parole under those decisions,” Judge Robert N. McDonald wrote in the majority ruling in Maryland.

The case is Lee Boyd Malvo v. State of Maryland before the Maryland Court of Appeals, decided Aug. 26, 2022.

Tom can be reached at tom@thewellnews.com and @TomRamstack

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