Could DC sniper Lee Boyd Malvo actually get out of prison?

There’s a name you probably haven’t heard in a while. Lee Boyd Malvo was in the news back in the autumn and winter of 2002 for his participation in the DC sniper murders. The mastermind of that killing spree, John Allen Muhammad, was executed in 2009, but Malvo has been serving a pair of life sentences for his role in the atrocity. But now the case is back in the spotlight after a judge tossed the sentences and declared that Malvo is entitled to a new sentencing hearing. (Associated Press)

A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

In a ruling issued Friday, 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.

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.

This is only one of many cases (though no doubt one of the higher profile ones) which are resurfacing as fallout from the 2016 SCOTUS decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana. NPR has a good rundown of that one if you missed it, but it was a 6-3 decision wherein the court stated that sentences of life without parole are unconstitutional based on being cruel and unusual when given to juveniles unless it can be conclusively shown that the convict is “irreparably corrupt and permanently incorrigible.” With vague terms such as those in play, pretty much any case is up for grabs. The only justices voting against the decision at the time were Scalia, Thomas and Alito.

This doesn’t mean that Malvo is getting out of prison any time soon. He’s simply going to get a new hearing on the sentence. He could still be sentenced once again to life or to some ridiculous number of years which will run well past his life expectancy. And would that be so wrong? This is a situation where those terms asking if someone is irreparably corrupt lose a lot of their meaning. Despite the possibility that Malvo may have found some measure of redemption in prison, he’s still one of the DC snipers. True, John Allen Muhammad was the main actor in that horror show, but Malvo was a willing accomplice who was found directly guilty for a portion of the carnage. And he was a participant in the rest. Ten dead, three injured and the home of America’s government on virtual lockdown in a state of terror for weeks. How much redemption can one actually offer to get another chance after that?

I suppose it all comes down to the fact that he was 17 at the time. Technically not an adult, but still at an age where we allow people to enlist in the military, drive cars and do pretty much everything else except vote or buy beer. There are plenty of gang members out there who have lengthy rap sheets which include murder charges before they turn 17. Seems to me that if you’re going to make the decision to step out and go kill like a man then you get treated like a man in court. Malvo clearly has competent legal representation to have gotten this far in the process, but I still see no reason to let him out.

Jazz Shaw Jul 06, 2022 9:01 AM ET