The Supreme Court dismissed on Wednesday the pending case of Lee Boyd Malvo, who was convicted for his role in the serial sniper shooting spree that rocked Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia 17 years ago.
Last fall, the court heard arguments in the case after a lower court ordered a new sentence for Malvo, who was 17 when the crimes were committed in 2002 and was originally sentenced to life without parole. In court, lawyers for Malvo said his sentence deserved a fresh look because the Supreme Court had issued new guidance on juvenile offenders in recent years. At the time, Virginia argued against Malvo.
The one-sentence order, which was expected, comes two days after Virginia’s governor signed a bill making juvenile offenders who were sentenced to life imprisonment eligible for parole after serving 20 years. Both sides told the Supreme Court there was no reason to continue the case.
Malvo, who is now 35 years old, was one of two people convicted in the sniper attacks that left 10 dead. His partner in the shootings, John Allen Muhammad, was executed in November 2009 in Virginia for his part in the spree.
The ruling is is likely to have a broader impact on other inmates who were convicted as juveniles because Malvo is also serving life sentences for his crimes in other states.
Last year, the justices struggled for more than an hour discussing the impact of their own prior cases as well as the details concerning Virginia’s sentencing scheme. The case came after the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote a landmark opinion in 2005 barring the death penalty for juvenile offenders.
In 2012, the justices held that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Four years later, the court said the decision applied retroactively.
At oral arguments, Virginia argued that the sentence of life without parole could stand because Malvo’s sentence was discretionary, not mandatory.
Justice Elena Kagan had questioned, however, whether Virginia properly considered Malvo’s age. She pointed out that the 2012 decision, which she wrote, could be summarized in two words: “youth matters,” and that a sentencer must treat children differently from adult offenders.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, on the other hand, repeatedly questioned a lawyer for Malvo on the meaning of the court’s precedents and how they would impact cases where the judge or jury did not just consider a sentence of life without parole.