The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether a man serving life in prison over his role in a deadly 2002 shooting spree in the Washington area should be resentenced because he was only 17 years old at the time.
But, "Malvo was 17 years old when he committed the murders, and he now has the retroactive benefit of new constitutional rules that treat juveniles differently for sentencing", the judges concluded. Virginia House Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to vacate the lower court ruling that found 11 minority-majority legislative districts were racially gerrymandered when they were initially drawn in 2011. The court said at the time that such a sentence is permissible only for "the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption".
Lee Boyd Malvo listens to court proceedings during the trial of fellow sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad in Virginia Beach, Va., in 2003. His convictions in Virginia were not set aside, just the sentencings.
Cooley added, "We believe that Judge Jackson's ruling is consistent with the mandates of the United States Supreme Court on these sentencing issues". They said if his crimes instead "reflect the transient immaturity of youth" he's entitled to a sentence short of life without parole. He isn't now getting a new sentencing hearing in Maryland, where he struck a plea deal and was sentenced to six life-without-parole prison terms for shootings that took place in that state.
The Supreme Court's actions announced Monday involve the Virginia sentences and will be heard in the term that starts in October.
As is typical, the justices did not make any comment in agreeing to hear the case.
For people in the Washington area, the shooting spree is remembered as particularly frightening because of the randomness of the attacks. Malvo and Muhammad were arrested when police found them sleeping at a Maryland rest area in a Chevrolet Caprice after a frantic search over crimes that panicked the US capital region.
The first issue for the court was whether the Republican-led House had the legal standing to appeal the panel's decision.
An FBI analyst was killed as she stood in the parking lot of a Home Depot. Two victims were fatally shot at gas stations. As his attorney Craig Cooley told CNN in 2017, "Lee will remain in jail, actually in prison, as he has a number of other sentences from Maryland".
Louisiana and OR at the time were the only states that allowed such split verdicts - which would end in a hung jury elsewhere - but Louisiana voters last November approved a state constitutional amendment to end the practice for serious felonies, starting this year.
The court has held that the Sixth Amendment requires unanimous verdicts in federal criminal cases.