The state of Virginia asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to block a lower court order that requires a new sentencing hearing for Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the Washington, D.C. snipers.
Requiring a new sentencing proceeding now, the state argued, would be "risking additional trauma to his numerous victims and their families" before the Supreme Court reviews whether an appeals court was right to say he must be resentenced.
Malvo, along with John Allen Muhammad, took part in a series of sniper shootings in the Washington area in 2002. Ten people were killed and others were wounded. Muhammad received the death penalty and was executed in 2009. A jury sentenced Malvo, who was 17 years old at the time, to multiple life terms in prison.
In 2013, Malvo challenged his sentences, arguing that they were unconstitutional because he was a juvenile when the crimes were committed, and citing the Supreme Court's 2012 ruling that struck down mandatory life sentences for juveniles. He received a boost in 2016 when the high court said that 2012 ruling was retroactive.
The state wants the resentencing put on hold while it appeals the lower court ruling that required it. Virginia says there's a difference between mandatory life sentences for juveniles, which the court struck down in 2012, and discretionary life sentences imposed by juries. One of Malvo’s life sentences was handed down by a jury. The other, in a separate court, was granted in return for his pleading guilty.
"The Commonwealth should not be forced to resentence one of the most heinous murderers in his history before having a chance to have its claims heard by this court," its lawyers said in asking for a stay.