McLEAN, Va. — Virginia authorities are opposing an effort by convicted sniper Lee Boyd Malvo to challenge his sentence of life without parole.
Malvo was convicted in Maryland and Virginia for his role in the 2002 sniper shootings that killed 10 people and wounded three in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. He is serving a life term at the Red Onion State Prison in southwest Virginia.
He is challenging the life sentences he received based on a recent Supreme Court decision that outlaws mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles. Malvo was 17 at the time of the killings.
Virginia’s attorney general’s office argues in papers filed Wednesday that the ruling should not be applied retroactively to Malvo. They also say that because Malvo struck plea bargains in some jurisdictions, the sentence can’t be challenged.
A Virginia jury found Malvo guilty at his first trial in 2003 for the death of FBI analyst Linda Franklin in Fairfax County. The jury only had the option of a death penalty or life in prison without parole, and opted for a life sentence.
Subsequently, Malvo struck plea bargains in Maryland and Spotsylvania County, Va., in which he agreed to accept a life sentence.
In a court filing, Virginia Senior Assistant Attorney General Donald Jeffrey III said the horrific nature of the killings, which terrorized the D.C. region for more than three weeks in October 2002, demonstrates that in this case a life sentence for a juvenile is not disproportionate.
“Given the nature of Malvo’s crimes, his sentence was not ‘disproportionate,’ even when taking into account his ‘youth,’“ Jeffrey wrote.
A federal judge in Norfolk will decide the issue. A hearing date has not yet been set.
Malvo’s lawyer, Craig Cooley, filed the petition in June, a year after the high court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life imprisonment without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
Malvo’s accomplice, John Allen Muhammad, was executed by Virginia in 2009.