U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to consider life-without-parole sentence for teen DC sniper

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether its decision banning mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles can be used to upend discretionary life-without-parole sentences imposed on teens before the Supreme Court acted.

The Supreme Court agreed to consider the question in the case of Lee Boyd Malvo, who was a teen when he and an older man killed 10 people in a series of sniper slayings in the Washington, D.C., area in 2002, the Washington Post reports. Malvo was sentenced to life without parole in Virginia and Maryland; the Supreme Court will review the Virginia cases.

The Supreme Court banned sentences of life without parole for juveniles in the 2012 case, Miller v. Alabama. In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled in Montgomery v. Louisiana that its ban on teen life-without-parole sentences applies retroactively.

The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Malvo’s case that the retroactivity decision allows reconsideration of discretionary life sentences as well as mandatory sentences, according to the state’s cert petition.

An opposition brief filed for Malvo says the 4th Circuit had ruled for Malvo because the sentencing judge didn’t consider whether his crime reflected “irreparable corruption,” the only type of crime for which juvenile life sentences are allowed under the two precedents.

The other convicted D.C. sniper, John Allen Muhammad, was executed in 2009.

The case is Mathena v. Malvo. The SCOTUSblog case page is here.

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