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HomePoliticsBeltway sniper Lee Boyd Malvo to be resentenced in Maryland killings

Beltway sniper Lee Boyd Malvo to be resentenced in Maryland killings


Maryland’s highest court on Friday ordered that the younger of the two Beltway snipers be resentenced for several fatal shootings he committed, saying a review of Lee Boyd Malvo’s punishments was appropriate given new constitutional protections for juveniles convicted of crimes.

The court said, however, it is highly unlikely that Malvo would ever be released from custody as he is also serving separate life sentences for the murders in Virginia.

Malvo, now 37, was long-ago convicted along with his partner, John Allen Muhammad, in the killings of six people in Maryland and four people in Virginia in 2002. He was 17 at the time of their rampage that terrorized the Washington region.

In the years since, a series of court rulings and new laws have reflected society’s evolving views on juvenile justice. A juvenile can no longer be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, as the Maryland court wrote Friday, if the crime reflected “transient immaturity” rather than “permanent incorrigibility.”

Supreme Court rules against juvenile sentenced to life without parole

By a 4-3 majority, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that when Malvo received that harshest punishment possible in Maryland — six terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole — the Montgomery County sentencing judge never explicitly made a finding that his crimes reflected “irreparable corruption.”

The court ordered Malvo to go back before a Montgomery County judge to be resentenced.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said Friday he will seek the maximum sentences he can for Malvo.

“I don’t know if he will ever get out of Virginia, if we will ever see him,” McCarthy said. “But we will seek sentences that would keep him locked up in Maryland for life if he ever did make it here.”

The court acknowledged that its ruling may make no difference in the amount of time Malvo will stay behind bars and said debate over Malvo’s original sentencing in Maryland “may be an academic question” because of his murder convictions in Virginia.

“He would first have to be granted parole in Virginia before his consecutive life sentences in Maryland even begin,” Judge Robert N. McDonald wrote for the majority. “Ultimately, it is not for this Court to decide the appropriate sentence for Mr. Malvo or whether he should ever be released from his Maryland sentences. 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.”

The court noted that when Malvo was sentenced in Maryland, the judge reflected on both Malvo’s apparent change for the better since his arrest and the heinous nature of his crimes.

Supreme Court debates what judges must find before sentencing juveniles to life without parole

“After you met John Allen Muhammad and became influenced by him, your chances for a successful life became worse than they already were,” the judge said at the time. “You could have been somebody different. You could have been better. What you are, however, is a convicted murderer … You knowingly, willingly, and voluntarily participated in the cowardly murders of innocent, defenseless human beings.”

McDonald was joined in the majority by Judges Brynja M. Booth, Jonathan Biran and Joseph M. Getty. Judges Shirley M. Watts, Michele D. Hotten and Steven B. Gould dissented.

The sentencing court “took Mr. Malvo’s status as a juvenile into account. … His youth and its attendant characteristics were considered,” Watts wrote.

“Any alleged finding of ‘corrigibility’ did not render petitioner’s sentences unconstitutionally disproportionate as applied,” Hotten wrote. “Rather the proportionality of petitioner’s sentences must be weighed against the severity of his crimes. Petitioner committed some of the worst crimes in the history of the state.”

Malvo is at Red Onion State Prison, a supermax facility in Virginia.

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