- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Several of D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo’s victims have taken the killer’s side for a Supreme Court hearing Wednesday where he will ask for mercy and a chance to someday walk out of prison.

His unlikely allies argue that a life-without-parole sentence was too harsh for Malvo, who was 17 when he and adult partner John Allen Muhammad terrorized the Washington region for six weeks in fall 2002 with a string of deadly shootings.

The three victims, who suffered gunshot wounds or lost relatives in the sniper rampage, now say child criminals can mature into adults, show remorse and become contributing members of society.

Paul LaRuffa, one of the victims-turned-defenders, was shot several times by Malvo and co-conspirator Muhammad while getting into his car in Clinton, Maryland. He lost the use of his arm for a year.

Mr. LaRuffa testified against Malvo and Muhammad at the original trials when Malvo was sentenced to life without parole and Muhammad got the death penalty, which was carried out in 2009.

“With scientific evidence, he now has at hand, Paul understands there is a real difference in the brains, character and judgment of minors that causes them to act and react more on emotion rather than on reason. He also understands minors have a strong capacity for rehabilitation,” Mr. LaRuffa’s legal counsel said in a court filing.

Isa Nichols, who was Muhammad’s accountant, had her niece shot and killed by Malvo. She signed on to the court filing, saying she thinks Malvo was under the influence of Muhammad.

And Cheryll Shaw, whose father was killed by the two men in spring 2002, has also asked the court to show mercy to Malvo.

Malvo and Muhammad, who was an adult in his 40s, terrorized Washington with a series of random attacks at locations including schools, gas stations and grocery stores around the Beltway.

Some people avoided going out except when absolutely necessary, and some gas stations took to hanging tarps around the pumps to keep customers from becoming targets. Schools were placed on lockdown and on one occasion, Interstate 95 was closed.

The sniper duo killed 12 people and wounded six, all while taunting police. They had drilled a hole in the trunk of their car just above the license plate so they could fire from undercover, then drive off, eluding authorities and prolonging the terror for weeks.

Muhammad had brought Malvo from Jamaica to the U.S. illegally and became a father figure to the teen.

Malvo was convicted of murdering one woman, and he pleaded guilty to the murder and attempted murder of two other individuals in Virginia. He also pleaded guilty to six murders in Maryland.

He has been serving his life sentence at Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, Virginia.

That’s where he should stay, said Nelson Rivera, whose wife Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera was shot and killed by Malvo at a Shell gas station in Kensington, Maryland.

Mr. Rivera and his legal team told the high court that any move to show mercy for Malvo will harm the victims by denying them “finality, fairness, and dignity.”

“Victims’ lives and pain can never be restored to their prior state and they have a right not to have to, unnecessarily, reopen and relive the nightmare of their loss at re-sentencing proceedings,” Mr. Rivera, represented by the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, said in court documents.

Malvo, now 34, has challenged his sentence, saying subsequent Supreme Court precedent dictates a juvenile shouldn’t be sentenced to life in prison without parole in violation of the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

He points to a 2012 ruling where the high court held the sentencing of juvenile homicide offenders to life in prison without parole ran afoul of the Constitution. And in 2016, the justices applied their 2012 ruling to a separate case involving a man who was sentenced to life without parole in Louisiana for a crime committed when he was 17.

In that ruling, the court said only “‘the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption’” may be sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole.

Since Malvo was sentenced before those subsequent cases were decided, he’s hoping the justices will apply the 2012 and 2016 cases retroactively, giving him a chance at a new punishment.

The government, though, says the court shouldn’t apply the 2012 and 2016 holdings retroactively since it will upset the finality of state convictions decided years prior.

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