Malvo, teen in Washington sniper case, challenges life-without-parole sentences

The Washington PostJune 27, 2013 

WASHINGTON — Lee Boyd Malvo, the younger member of a pair who terrorized the Washington, 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 this week in federal court in Maryland and Virginia, Malvo, now 28, says 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, Va.

Malvo and the other man involved in the sniper attacks, John Allen Muhammad, lived in Bellingham months before the crimes.

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 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 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 attorneys in Virginia did not immediately respond to calls and emails 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 Muhammad ambushed 13 people, killing 10 of them, in the Washington, D.C., area over 21 days in October 2002. After the two were caught, they were tied to at least 11 additional 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.

Malvo and Muhammad lived in Bellingham from August 2001 until early 2002.

Malvo, sometimes using the name John Malvo, attended Bellingham High School. The two hung out together at the former downtown Stuart’s Coffee House, worked out in the gym at Whatcom Family YMCA and stayed at Lighthouse Mission.

Some who knew the pair during their brief stay here said Muhammad introduced the younger man as his son. They remembered Malvo as a quiet youth who seemed to be under Mohammad’s control.

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service