Malvo, teen in D.C. sniper case, challenges life-without-parole sentences


Lee Boyd Malvo is escorted by deputies as he is brought into court to be identified by a witness at the Virginia Beach Circuit Court on Oct. 22, 2003, in Virginia Beach, Va. (Davis Turner/Pool/Getty Images)
June 27, 2013

Lee Boyd Malvo, the younger member of a pair that terrorized the D.C. area a decade ago with a series of random, sniper-style shootings, is challenging his many life-without-parole sentences, citing a recent Supreme Court decision that bans the mandatory imposition of such penalties on juveniles.

In documents filed by his attorneys earlier this week in federal court in Maryland and Virginia, Malvo, now 28, claims that the 2012 Miller v. Alabama decision could render as unconstitutional his 10 life-without-parole sentences in two states. The 5 to 4 decision held that mandatory life-without-parole sentences effectively constituted cruel and unusual punishment for children, but judges could still impose the stiff penalty if they took mitigating circumstances into consideration.

The filings were first reported by The Daily Progress of Charlottesville.

Those involved in the case say Malvo, 17 when the attacks began in 2002, still has little chance of ever getting out of prison. While his four life sentences in Virginia — two in Fairfax County and two in Spotsylvania County — might be considered mandatory, the Maryland judge in Montgomery County had discretion when he imposed six consecutive life terms without parole on Malvo, those involved in the case said.

“Because the Maryland sentences were not mandatory, then this legal challenge would not impact . . . the sentences he received in the Montgomery County killings,” said Alan Brody, a spokesman for Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.

“Even if these challenges were successful in Virginia and altered his sentences there, the Maryland rulings, we believe, would be unaffected, and Mr. Malvo would continue to serve his life sentences,” Brody said.

William C. Brennan, who filed paperwork for Malvo in federal district court in Maryland, said there were “significant challenges” to having Malvo’s sentences in that state reconsidered — including that Maryland does not have mandatory life without parole, and that Malvo was still in prison in Virginia.

“We filed it to preserve his technical rights under the recent Supreme Court case, but we don’t expect it to be heard because he’s not a Maryland inmate and Virginia has to resolve what they’re doing first,” Brennan said.

Malvo’s lawyers in Virginia did not immediately return calls and e-mails seeking comment. Caroline Gibson, a spokeswoman for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, said her office had not yet been served with the filing.

Malvo and another man, John Allen Muhammad, ambushed 13 people, killing 10 of them, in the D.C. area over 21 days in October 2002. After the two were caught, they were tied to at least 11 more shootings from Washington state to Alabama, five of them fatal.

Muhammad was sentenced to death and executed in 2009. Malvo remains incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, Va.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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