- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, already given two life sentences in connection with a 2002 shooting spree that left 15 dead across the nation, won’t face the death penalty in any future trials, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that juveniles cannot be punished by execution.

Malvo, who turned 20 last month, was 17 when he and sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad, 53, went on their deadly rampage.

Prosecutors sought the death penalty for Malvo in 2003, but a Chesapeake jury sentenced him to life without parole. In October, he pleaded guilty to murder charges in Spotsylvania County in return for a life sentence.

Prince William County was set to pursue a death penalty case against Malvo, pending the court’s decision, but Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert said he will drop the case.

“As far as Prince William County is concerned, he will not be prosecuted. I see no justification in going to the time and expense,” Mr. Ebert said.

Mr. Ebert had secured a death sentence against Muhammad by a Virginia Beach jury in 2003.

Vicki Snyder, sister of sniper victim James L. “Sonny” Buchanan, 39, disagreed with the high court’s decision.

“I really feel it should be case by case, and a jury should decide. I think we’re taking it out of the hands of the people,” she said. “I’ve always had mixed feelings on the death penalty, but I did feel that in this case the death penalty was warranted.”

Andrea Walekar, whose father Premkumar, 54, was fatally shot on Oct. 3, at an Aspen Hill gas station, was not sure whether execution or life in prison was a more severe punishment.

“He’ll have to sit there and think about it,” she said. She said it was “unfair” that Malvo is now exempted from the death penalty because he was three months shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the shootings.

Malvo likely will face trial in at least one other jurisdiction. Prosecutors from Montgomery County; Baton Rouge, La.; and Montgomery, Ala., all have asked Virginia Gov. Mark Warner for permission to try Malvo next.

“I do think there is a strong value in trying them in another state that will have different laws applied to different facts, given the possibility of an appeal in Virginia, and considering how many crimes these men allegedly committed,” said Douglas F. Gansler, Montgomery County state’s attorney.

Mr. Gansler called for a coordinated planning effort to determine the best case against Malvo.

“I don’t think it would be helpful for them to be tried in every jurisdiction,” he said.

John Sinquefield, first district attorney in Baton Rouge, said the court’s ruling did not change his plans.

“I am still resolute that I will extradite Malvo and prosecute him,” Mr. Sinquefield said. “What is changed is that I can no longer seek the death penalty. But I still seek justice for the crime he is alleged to have committed in East Baton Rouge.”

Malvo would be tried in Baton Rouge for the Sept. 23, 2002, slaying of Hong Im Ballenger, 45, outside her beauty supply store.

Ellen Brooks, Montgomery, Ala., district attorney, said she still wants to prosecute Malvo for the Sept. 21, 2002, double shooting that left Claudine Lee Parker, 52, dead and Kellie Adams, 24, seriously wounded.

“We’ll wait our turn,” Mrs. Brooks said.

Ellen Qualls, Mr. Warner’s spokeswoman, said the governor’s advisers were consulting with the attorney general’s office and with prosecutors to come up with a plan.

Malvo was convicted of the Oct. 14, 2002, shooting of Linda Franklin, 47, outside a Falls Church Home Depot and sentenced to life in prison without the opportunity of parole. The trial was moved to Chesapeake because of pretrial publicity.

He also pleaded guilty to the Oct. 11, 2002, fatal shooting of Kenneth Harold Bridges, 53, at a Massaponax, Va., gas station and received a life sentence.

Mr. Ebert would have tried Malvo for the Oct. 9, 2002, fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station. Muhammad was convicted of that shooting and given the death penalty in a Virginia Beach courtroom, where the trial was moved, also because of pretrial publicity.

Other jurisdictions also want to try Muhammad.

Malvo and Muhammad terrorized the Washington area in October 2002 when they randomly shot 13 persons, 10 fatally, in three weeks. Muhammad ultimately might have been targeting his ex-wife, Mildred, who had custody of their three children and lived in Clinton, Md.

Investigators think Malvo, before the spree, fatally shot one woman in Tacoma, Wash., on Feb. 16, 2002.

Pierce County deputy prosecuting attorney Jerry Costello said his office had no plans to prosecute that slaying.

Malvo and Muhammad then shot eight others in different states, killing four, before the October spree.

Malvo’s lawyers, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, had indicated that their client might answer more questions about the shootings if the death penalty were no longer an option.

Mr. Ebert said Malvo did not deserve to live.

“I’ve thought all along that Malvo was one of those few juveniles that deserved the death penalty. He was different from most juveniles in the way he thinks and the way he acted. He was able to plan, premeditate, he had no conscience. This is not a reckless act that we attribute to juveniles simply because they’re underage.”

Marsha Levick, legal director of the Juvenile Law Center, in Philadelphia, disagreed.

“Lee Malvo is never getting out of prison. He’s been punished for the crime. The elimination of the death penalty for juvenile offenders does not excuse their criminal activity, and it doesn’t let them off the hook. They will continue to be punished for their crimes, they just won’t be executed,” she said.

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