Federal judge tosses out life sentences for DC sniper

Judge Raymond Jackson said Lee Boyd Malvo is entitled to new sentencing hearings after SCOTUS ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional


By Matthew Barakat 
Associated Press

McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson in Norfolk said Malvo is entitled to new sentencing hearings after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional.

In this Oct. 26, 2004, file photo, Lee Boyd Malvo enters a courtroom in the Spotsylvania, Va., Circuit Court. (Mike Morones/The Free Lance-Star via AP)
In this Oct. 26, 2004, file photo, Lee Boyd Malvo enters a courtroom in the Spotsylvania, Va., Circuit Court. (Mike Morones/The Free Lance-Star via AP)

Malvo was 17 when he was arrested in 2002 for a series of shootings that killed 10 people and wounded three in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, causing widespread fear throughout the region.

His accomplice, John Allen Muhammad, was executed in 2009.

Malvo also was sentenced to life in prison in Maryland for the murders that occurred there. But his lawyers have made an appeal on similar grounds in that state. A hearing is scheduled in June.

Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh, who helped prosecute Malvo in 2003, said the Virginia attorney general can appeal Jackson's ruling. If not, Morrogh said he would pursue another life sentence, saying he believes Malvo meets the criteria for a harsh sentence.

A spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring did not return a phone call and email seeking comment Friday.

Malvo's first trial took place in Chesapeake after a judge agreed to move it from Fairfax because of pretrial publicity. A jury convicted Malvo of capital murder, which under Virginia law requires either a death sentence or life without parole. Prosecutors sought a death sentence, but a jury opted for life in prison.

He then negotiated a plea bargain in Spotsylvania County and agreed to a life sentence.

Jackson, in his ruling, wrote that Malvo was entitled to a new sentencing hearing because the Supreme Court's ruling grants new rights to juveniles that Malvo didn't know he had when he agreed to the plea bargain.

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