“I have not talked to Lee Boyd Malvo since the day he stood in my office and told us why he wanted to come forward to testify,” against fellow sniper John Allen Muhammad, former Montgomery County state’s attorney Douglas Gansler tells WTOP.
Malvo’s plea deal and six life sentences in Maryland have suddenly become more important, now that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed a law that mandates defendants who committed crimes while juveniles become eligible for parole after 20 years in prison.
Malvo, who is in a Virginia prison, could be paroled in less than four years.
Gansler believes Malvo should not be granted parole anytime soon.
Gansler orchestrated the plea arrangement with Malvo in 2006, after the younger sniper had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and Muhammad had been sentenced to death, in Virginia, for the three-week shooting spree in October 2002.
Malvo testified against Muhammad in the Rockville courtroom, and detailed the murders of 10 people in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, as well as earlier murders and shootings in Washington state, Arizona, Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama.
Muhammad and Malvo each received six life sentences without parole in Maryland’s Montgomery County.
“Unless and until a governor, decades from now, were to commute or pardon the sentence. Lee Boyd Malvo will spend the rest of his life in prison either in Virginia, where he is now being held, or Maryland,” Gansler said.
Gansler had lobbied loudly to prosecute Muhammad and Malvo first, since most of the victims were in Montgomery County, however then-U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft decided Virginia would prosecute them first, since the death penalty was a possibility in the commonwealth.
After Muhammad and Malvo’s convictions and sentences in Virginia, Gansler received some criticism for putting the snipers on trial in Maryland.
“The six families whose loved ones lost their lives deserved the day in court for their loved ones,” said Gansler.
In addition, Gansler knew that what happened in Virginia Monday could eventually happen, jeopardizing Malvo’s four life sentences in Virginia.
Malvo had been convicted of two counts of capital murder in the Fairfax County shooting of Linda Franklin. He had pleaded guilty to two shootings in Spotsylvania County.
“The alternative reason, which we now see is potentially coming to fruition, was that we did believe there were potential infirmities [in the cases against Malvo and Muhammad] in Virginia, and things do happen down the road.”
Malvo’s six life-without-parole sentences in Maryland are still undergoing review. Appeals on those cases went on hold, as the U.S. Supreme Court contemplated his Virginia appeal.
The basis for Malvo’s appeal in Maryland is similar to his Virginia appeal, in light of two recent Supreme Court rulings. Malvo’s lawyers argued before the Supreme Court that judges were not aware they could sentence Malvo to something less than life in prison without the chance of parole.
Gansler said he believes the Maryland sentences will be upheld.
“The judge did know that he had that possibility, and sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole.”