A three-judge federal appeals court panel is ordering new sentencing hearings for Lee Boyd Malvo, one half of a duo who terrorized commuters on the Beltway more than a decade ago by carrying out a series of random, drive-by shootings of unsuspecting motorists.
The panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, upheld a ruling last year by U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson in Norfolk, Va., that said Malvo is entitled to new sentencing hearings after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional.
“To be clear, the crimes committed by Malvo and John Muhammad were the most heinous, random acts of premeditated violence conceivable, destroying lives and families and terrorizing the entire Washington, D.C. metropolitan area for over six weeks, instilling mortal fear daily in the citizens of that community,” Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote. “… 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.”
Malvo was 17 at the time of his arrest in 2002 for a series of shootings over three weeks that left 10 people dead and three more injured in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. His accomplice, John Allen Muhammad, was 41 years old at the time of arrest.
The arrests were made possible because of alert truckers on the road.
Truck driver Ron Lantz of Ludlow, Ky., helped police capture two suspects in the DC sniper case. In the early hours of Oct. 24, 2002, Lantz was listening to the Truckin’ Bozo radio show and heard a description of a car being sought by officials in connection with the sniper case. He noticed a car that matched the description – a Chevrolet Caprice – parked at a rest stop in Maryland and called 9-1-1.
Lantz and another driver then blocked the exits to the rest area, effectively trapping the suspects until police could arrive. Muhammad and Malvo were arrested a short time later. Lantz has since retired from trucking.
Muhammad received the death penalty for his role in the shootings. The state executed Muhammad by lethal injection in 2009.
A 2012 ruling by The U.S. Supreme Court declares mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole unconstitutional for juveniles. In 2016, the court decided to apply the ruling retroactively. Thus, even though Malvo pleaded guilty and agreed to serve two life sentences in Spotsylvania County, Va., and was later convicted by a jury and sentenced to two life sentences in Chesapeake, Va., Judge Jackson declared all four sentences unconstitutional and ordered resentencing.
Malvo also received life sentences in Maryland, but a Maryland judge denied him a new sentencing hearing.
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