Mathena v. Malvo

Juvenile Law Center and Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth, joined by 49 advocacy organizations and individuals, filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States in support of Lee Boyd Malvo. Seventeen-year-old Lee and 41-year-old John Muhammad, who was acting as “a perverse ‘surrogate father’” to Lee, committed a series of fatal shootings. Lee was sentenced to four life without parole sentences in Virginia. 

Amici argued that imposing a life without parole sentence without considering the characteristics of youth is unconstitutional—whether imposed under a mandatory or discretionary sentencing scheme.

Since Miller, most states have transformed their sentencing regimes for youth convicted of homicide, regardless of whether they provided for mandatory or discretionary life without parole. In 2012, when Miller was decided, only five states had banned juvenile life without parole sentences. At the time of the brief, 22 states and Washington, D.C. have banned life without parole sentences for children, and 19 of those states have implemented the ban legislatively.

The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments on October 16, 2019.

In February 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the case in light of recently passed legislation in Virginia which allowed individuals sentenced for offenses committed as youth, including those sentenced to life without parole, to be parole eligible after 20 years.