Supreme Court hears case over life sentence of DC sniper

Supreme Court hears case over life sentence of DC sniper
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in a case involving the sentence of Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the two so-called D.C. snipers.

Justices appeared split over whether to grant Malvo, who was convicted and sentenced to life without parole as a teenager, a new sentencing hearing, according to reports.

Malvo was 17 years old when he and 41-year-old John Allen Muhammad murdered 10 people and wounded three others in a random string of killings that terrorized the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., region in 2002.

Muhammad was executed in 2009, while Malvo was handed four life sentences without parole in Virginia and six life sentences without parole in Maryland. He is serving his sentence in a Virginia prison.

But the Supreme Court delivered rulings in 2012 and 2016 that made mandatory life without parole sentences unconstitutional for most juvenile offenders.

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Malvo challenged his sentence in light of the rulings, and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with him. But the prison’s warden appealed the decision, with the state arguing the appeals court incorrectly expanded the ban.

The Supreme Court said in March that it would review the case.

The high court's ruling will also impact the sentences of other convicted juveniles.

"Invalidation of 'mandatory' life without-parole sentences is premised on the court's recognition that the qualities of youth -- immaturity, vulnerability, and changeability -- must be taken into account when sentencing a juvenile offender because those qualities will typically make life without parole an excessive punishment for a juvenile," Malvo’s attorneys wrote in court documents, according to ABC News.

Attorneys for the state of Virginia said the case “is about how and when decisions announcing new constitutional interpretations are made retroactive to other cases that have long become final when those interpretations are announced,” ABC News reports.