Saying murder victims’ loved ones have a right to finality, a Maryland victims’ rights group is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the pending resentencing of a man serving a life-without-parole sentence for committing sniper-style slayings in the Washington area in 2002, when he was a teenager.
In papers filed with the justices this week, the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center said it supports Virginia’s bid for high-court review of a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that Lee Boyd Malvo must be resentenced under U.S. Supreme Court rulings that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional.
Virginia has argued Malvo’s sentence is valid because it was not mandated by law but handed down at a judge’s discretion. The center agreed, adding that requiring resentencing in cases, such as Malvo’s, where the sentencing judge had discretion would further traumatize victims’ families.
“Resentencing proceedings subject victims presenting impact statements to having to recall and speak publicly about the impact upon them of murders that often the victims have, until then, chosen never to think about or discuss again in public or private, considering individuals they have lost, the terror that they felt when the crime was fresh, and the fear that likely still stalks them at night about the crime, which they endure only with difficulty, counseling and the passage of time,” wrote Russell P. Butler, the center’s executive director and counsel of record before the high court.
“Despite this revived pain, victims cannot resist being pulled into these resentencing proceedings,” added Butler, joined by co-counsel Victor D. Stone. “They do not turn a blind eye to such proceedings since victims typically are perhaps the only original crime participants still available, long after the original prosecutor, investigators and judicial officials have moved on, who can present a first-person account of ancient murders, in opposition to an offender’s self- centered and self-serving or biased recollection.”
Malvo was 17 when he and John Allen Muhammad fatally shot 10 people in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. Muhammad was executed after being convicted in Virginia. Malvo was sentenced to multiple life terms.
Malvo’s appellate attorney, Danielle Mary Spinelli, has until Oct. 19 to respond to Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s request for high-court review of the 4th Circuit’s decision. Spinelli is with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP in Washington.
The Supreme Court has not set a date for its consideration of Virginia’s request. The case is docketed at the high court as Randall Mathena v. Lee Boyd Malvo, No. 18-217.
In its published decision in June, the 4th Circuit cited the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama that the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment bars mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile murderers, such as Malvo. The 4th Circuit also cited the high court’s 2016 ruling in Montgomery v. Louisiana that its Miller decision applies retroactively and that life sentences for juveniles are reserved for those whose “crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility.”
The appellate panel stated that Malvo is entitled to a resentencing because the judge made no finding of Malvo’s permanent incorrigibility. The 4th Circuit’s published decisions apply to Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas.
In their Supreme Court filings, the Virginia attorney general and the crime victims’ center stated that “permanent incorrigibility” is a standard that judges already consider before handing down their discretionary, and thus constitutional, life-without-parole sentences for juveniles.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.