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Federal judge voids 2002 Beltway-sniper-killer life sentences
Federal judge voids 2002 Beltway-sniper-killer life sentences

[JURIST] Judge Raymond Jackson of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] on Friday tossed out [Reuters report] the life sentences imposed by Virginia courts for Lee Boyd Malvo [BBC profile], ruling [opinon, PDF] that Malvo must be re-sentenced in light of a 2012 US Supreme Court [official webite] decision banning life sentences for juveniles. In Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs [SCOTUSblog backgrounders], the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that mandatory life sentences for juveniles violated the Eighth Amendment [text] prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Malvo was one of two men found guilty in a series of sniper shootings that killed 10 people and injured others in DC in 2002. Malvo was 17 at the time of his arrest. Friday’s ruling does not affect Malvo’s convictions or the six life sentences that he was given by the Maryland courts. Malvo’s then adult-co-defendant, John Allen Muhammad, was also convicted for these killings and executed in 2009.

This development follows another landmark US Supreme Court decision in January 2016, where the Court ruled [JURIST report] that the Miller-Hobbs decisions banning mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles should apply retroactively. The Supreme Court banned life without parole sentences for juveniles [JURIST report] in 2012, but until Montgomery v. Louisiana [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that outcome was being applied only prospectively in many states. The case to apply the ruling retroactively was made by Bryan Stevenson [NYU profile], professor at New York University, and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative [advocacy website]. The case involved Henry Montgomery, convicted in 1963 of murdering a deputy sheriff at the age of 17. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. At the age of 70, Montgomery’s case came before the Supreme Court with Stevenson’s team arguing on his behalf to apply the ruling in 2012 retroactively to his 1963 life sentence. In a 6-3 opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court concluded that “prisoners like Montgomery must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored.”