UPDATED: 2019/03/18 5:00 PM
Over a decade ago, Lee Boyd Malvo (17 years of age at the time) and his older associate, John Allen Muhammad, shocked the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. areas by committing acts of terror that ended the lives of 10 people and wounded many others. These murders took place between September 5 and October 22, 2002, and while Muhammad was executed for these crimes in 2009, Malvo was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Malvo was personally found guilty of shooting Linda Franklin, an FBI analyst, outside a Home Depot store in Fairfax, Virginia.
However, the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence regarding underage murderers has changed since then. While the ruling originally had the death penalty taken off the table for juveniles, it also stated that a life sentence without the possibility of parole was not constitutional for people under the age of 18. Judges are now being required to consider whether a juvenile’s crime shows that they displayed irreparable corruption or if their actions showed that their decision to commit such a crime was a fleeting decision stemming from youthful immaturity. The difference could mean life or death.
Because these new rules are retroactive, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Virginia must now decide if Malvo’s heinous, premeditated, and murderous acts were indeed the result of a juvenile who was irreparably corrupt. Malvo’s sentences in Maryland were upheld in 2017, with a state court judge noting that the sentencing judge had already taken into account the fact that Malvo was a minor and that his counterpart—Muhammad—was the one who masterminded the atrocious attacks. The decision to uphold life in prison without parole is on appeal in Maryland’s highest court.