It’s been 15-years since Washington D.C. residents were terrorized by criminal snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo.
While John was executed in 2009 for his role in the deadly shooing spree that killed 10 people across Virginia, Maryland and D.C., Lee has been serving two life sentences behind bars.
On Friday, a federal judge tossed out both life sentences under new laws that state mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. Lee was 17-years-old at the time of his initial sentencing.
A hearing is scheduled in June. Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh, who helped prosecute Malvo in 2003, said the Virginia attorney general can appeal Jackson’s ruling.
If not, Morrogh said he would pursue another life sentence, saying he believes Malvo meets the criteria for a harsh sentence.
Michael Kelly, spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, said Friday evening that the office is “reviewing the decision and will do everything possible, including a possible appeal, to make sure this convicted mass murderer serves the life sentences that were originally imposed.”
He also noted that the convictions themselves stand and emphasized that, even if
Malvo gets a new sentencing hearing, he could still be resentenced to a life term. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional. Then, last year, the Supreme Court applied that case retroactively to sentences issued before 2012.
Malvo’s first trial took place in Chesapeake after a judge agreed to move it from Fairfax because of pretrial publicity. A jury convicted
Malvo of capital murder for the slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, who was shot in the head outside a Home Depot store. Under Virginia law, a capital murder conviction requires either a death sentence or life without parole. Prosecutors sought a death sentence, but a jury opted for life in prison.
Malvo then negotiated a plea bargain in Spotsylvania County and agreed to a life sentence and waived his appeal rights.
The attorney general’s office argued unsuccessfully that the Supreme Court rulings should not apply to Malvo.
To begin with, while the jury in Chesapeake had only the option of a death penalty or life without parole, the capital murder statute required them to make specific findings about Malvo, including a conclusion that he poses a future danger.
The state argued that the jury’s findings provide the kind of individualized assessment that the Supreme Court requires to sentence a juvenile to life in prison.
The state also argued that Malvo knowingly waived his appeal rights when he struck the plea bargain in Spotsylvania County. Jackson, in his ruling, wrote that Malvo was entitled to a new sentencing hearing because the Supreme Court’s ruling grants new rights to juveniles that Malvo didn’t know he had when he agreed to the plea bargain.
Malvo has been serving his sentence at Red Onion state prison in southwest Virginia.
You know…there’s always been something a little unsettling to us about this case. We can’t quite figure out what it is.