GW Law professor explains background of resentencing in DC sniper case

WASHINGTON — Lee Boyd Malvo was half of a deadly sniper duo that terrified the D.C. region in October 2002. 

Now, a federal judge in Norfolk, Virginia, has ruled that two life sentences in the Commonwealth will be reconsidered based on the U.S. Supreme Court decision that mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. Malvo is currently serving time in Virginia for his role in the sniper shootings that left 10 dead and three wounded.

George Washington Law professor Jonathan Turley says two cases paved the way for Friday’s ruling in Virginia.

“In many ways, this was an inevitable decision. First, in 2012, the Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama said that you cannot impose mandatory life without parole on juveniles,” said Turley. It did not, at that time, say whether that type of ruling should be applied retroactively to someone like Malvo, who was sentenced before the decision came down.

“The court then, in 2016, handed down the decision in Montgomery vs. Louisiana and in that decision, they said, you bet, you should apply this retroactively. That led to the appeal that ultimately led to the decision in Malvo. And what the court said there, is that this was a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Malvo was a minor at the time, and therefore resentencing will have to occur.”

But it doesn’t mean he’ll go free.

“To the contrary,” Turley said. “(Malvo) entered guilty pleas in multiple cases in both Virginia and Maryland. The resentencing is likely to still impose a very hefty, even a life sentence, on Malvo.”

Malvo’s lawyers argue their client’s six life sentences in Montgomery County, Maryland, are also unconstitutional.

The snipers also struck in Prince George’s County, Maryland, wounding a 13-year-old boy outside a middle school in Bowie.

“I know it’s a heavy impact, especially for the families of the victims,” said Glen Ivey, who was Prince George’s County State’s Attorney during these cases. He’s now a partner with the Leftwich Law Firm in D.C.

“It was devastating to the families at the time, so I know this is a difficult time for them,” Ivey told WTOP after Friday’s ruling in Virginia. “It was such a high-profile case … This touched everyone in the region. I don’t know what the new sentences are going to be, but I know everyone’s going to be watching it closely.”

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