Maryland's highest court heard arguments Tuesday on whether Washington, D.C., sniper Lee Boyd Malvo's six life sentences without possibility of parole should be reconsidered because of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision barring mandatory life sentences for juveniles.
Kiran Iyer, a Maryland public defender, argued that life without parole sentences for Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the shootings that terrorized the region, should be reconsidered in light of the Supreme Court ruling. He also contends his client should benefit from Maryland’s new law enabling prisoners convicted as juveniles to seek release once they’ve served at least 20 years.
Malvo and his mentor, John Allen Muhammad, then 41, shot people in Virginia, Maryland and Washington as they pumped gas, loaded packages into their cars and went about their everyday business during a three-week period in 2002.
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Muhammad was sentenced to death and was executed in Virginia in 2009.
Iyer argued Tuesday before the Maryland Court of Appeals that a judge failed to properly consider Malvo’s youth during sentencing. He also contended that it was clear that the judge found Malvo was capable of change, which takes on added significance under changes in the law.
“The bottom line with the sentencing is that Malvo's corrigibility was undisputed. It just had no legal significance in 2006," Iyer said. "It has legal significance now. It means that his sentences are excessive.”
Carrie Williams, an assistant attorney general for the state of Maryland, noted that Malvo is incarcerated in Virginia and would first have to be paroled from that state. She said he is serving four life sentences there, for three murders and one attempted murder.
Malvo also has been sentenced to six separate life without parole sentences in Maryland for killing six people.
While the sentencing judge may have acknowledged change and growth in Malvo, he did not “acknowledge the amount of change or growth that would be required — or even the capacity for the amount of change or growth that would be required — to release someone who had killed six separate people over a 22-day crime spree back into society,” Williams said.
“Mr. Malvo had multiple opportunities to reflect upon each one of his 10 bad decisions, and the bad decisions that have not been prosecuted but to which Mr. Malvo has confessed," Williams said.
The Court of Appeals did not issue a ruling Tuesday. It could take months for a decision.
The 2012 U.S. Supreme Court Miller v. Alabama ruling stated that life sentences for defendants 17 and younger should be barred “for all but the rarest of juvenile offenders, those whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility.”
In addition, the Maryland’s General Assembly abolished life without parole for youths, overriding a veto by Gov. Larry Hogan last year. Virginia passed similar legislation last year. That change prompted Malvo to drop a legal appeal that had gone to the Supreme Court to determine if his life sentence should be rescinded.