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Supreme Court To Reconsider Life Sentences For DC Sniper Lee Boyd Malvo

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The Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in Washington, D.C., sniper Lee Boyd Malvo’s bid for a new prison sentence.

Malvo was 17 years old when he and John Allen Muhammad murdered 12 people and injured six more during a two-month shooting spree that terrified the capital region. He is seeking resentencing under recent Supreme Court decisions that forbid life sentences for juveniles on constitutional grounds.

“If one abides by this court’s precedent, as the court of appeals did, this case is straightforward,” Malvo’s brief at the high court reads. “[Precedent] requires sentencers, before imposing life without parole on a juvenile, to consider whether the lesser culpability and greater changeability associated with youth warrant a lesser sentence. Because Malvo’s sentencers did not undertake that required consideration of his youth, he is entitled to resentencing.”

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The stakes in Wednesday’s case are not as high for Malvo as they are for other offenders. Though four of Malvo’s life sentences from Virginia are before the justices, another six from Maryland are not. As such, it’s unlikely he will ever leave prison even if he prevails.

In a 2012 decision called Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The majority relied on earlier cases in which the court barred executing juveniles and sentencing minors to life without parole for non-homicide crimes.

 

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