Lee Boyd Malvo, convicted of capital murder in a Washington, D.C., sniper case, could become the nation’s youngest death-row inmate, the Richmond Times-Dispatch says. The penalty phase of Malvo’s trial begins today in Chesapeake, Va.
Malvo, 18, was 17 when he and John Allen Muhammad, 42, allegedly shot and killed as many as 18 people from Tacoma, Wash., to Ashland, Va. Ten were killed and three wounded in the Washington, D.C. area last fall.
The Death Penalty Information Center said that as of Sept. 1, the youngest death row inmate was Jorge Salinas, 19, of Texas. The youngest of the 27 death row inmates in Virginia is Kent Jackson, 22. Of the 7,466 men and women sentenced to death in the U.S. since 1973, 224 killed when they were juveniles. Twenty-two have been executed: 13 in Texas, accounting for 59 percent of the total; and 3 in Virginia, for 14 percent.
Ohio Northern University law professor Victor Streib said fewer juveniles are being sentenced to death, and the rate is now at its lowest point in 15 years. In 1999, 15 juvenile offenders were sentenced to death. As of Nov. 15, only one juvenile killer has been sentenced to death in the U.S. this year. Of the 38 states with the death penalty, 21 permit the execution of juvenile offenders and only 13 of the 21 have a juvenile offender on death row.
Opponents of executing of juvenile offenders contend that juveniles are less able to consider the consequences of their actions, are easily swayed by peers, and show poor judgment. Those who favor it argue that the age at the time of the offense should be just one factor the jury or judges should use in weighing whether to sentence someone to death or impose a life sentence.
Opponents were given hope by last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning the execution of the retarded because of “evolving standards of decency.”