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Supreme Court to Hear 'DC Sniper' Case

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Lee Boyd Malvo was 17 years old when he murdered three people and served as the "spotter" for killing seven others in the "DC Sniper" shootings.

He and his accomplice, John Allen Muhammad, shot the victims in a month-long killing spree in 2002. Muhammad has since been executed, and Malvo is serving two life sentences.

In Mathena v. Malvo, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether Malvo's sentence was too harsh because of his age at the time.

"Irreparable Corruption"

The case is more complex, but one question is whether Malvo's crimes resulted from "irreparable corruption" or the "transient immaturity of youth."

Malvo says that Muhammad, who was 25 years older than he was at the time of the shootings, made him "a monster." He said Mohammad brought him into the country illegally, clothed, and fed him on a path to destruction.

The killers shot 13 people sniper-style, leaving 10 dead in the Mid-Atlantic/Washington area. It remains one of the most terrifying attacks in the nation's capital.

Malvo and Muhammad were convicted in separate trials. The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said Malvo deserves a new sentencing hearing.

Retroactive Collateral Review

Of course, the issues are more complicated. SCOTUSblog puts it this way:

"Whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit erred in concluding--in direct conflict with Virginia's highest court and other courts--that a decision of the Supreme Court, Montgomery v. Louisiana, addressing whether a new constitutional rule announced in an earlier decision, Miller v. Alabama, applies retroactively on collateral review may properly be interpreted as modifying and substantively expanding the very rule whose retroactivity was in question."

The High Court will likely schedule arguments for the next term.

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