Malvo v. State

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. Mr. Malvo will be eligible for parole in Virginia in November 2022.

Mr. Malvo filed an appeal in the Maryland Court of Appeals, challenging his six consecutive life without parole sentences in that state, which will run consecutively to his sentences in Virginia. 

Juvenile Law Center, joined by The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, The Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU School of Law, Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, and The Sentencing Project, filed an amicus brief in the Maryland Court of Appeals in support of Mr. Malvo. Our brief argued that the criminal legal system creates a racial hierarchy in Maryland, and that youth and racial disproportionality require heightened protection under the state's constitutional ban on cruel or unusual punishment. We further argued that implicit and explicit biases permeate sentencing without a more exacting standard than that provided by Maryland’s Juvenile Restoration Act. 

In a win for youth, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that Mr. Malvo is entitled to a resentencing hearing, as his sentencing took place prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Graham, Miller, and Montgomery and thus may not have complied with our current understanding of the Eighth Amendment as applied to youth. The Court further held that the Juvenile Restoration Act is not a substitute for resentencing in Mr. Malvo’s case. 

Court Documents