The U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of a case challenging the death penalty for juvenile offenders may spare convicted sniper Lee Boyd Malvo. The Richmond Times-Dispatch notes that Malvo dodged a death sentence last month for his role in the shootings that killed 10 in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., in October 2002. A jury recommended that accomplice John Allen Muhammad be sentenced to death. Both men are expected to face more potential death penalties in trials in Virginia and possibly other states. Malvo, now 18, was 17 at the time of the slayings. Muhammad is 44.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that those who kill while 16 or 17 can be executed. The Virginia General Assembly is considering a bill that would bar the execution of those who kill while under the age of 18. Virginia and 20 other states allow the execution of those who kill while juveniles, but only seven states have carried out such executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Virginia has executed three men who killed under 18 and has one juvenile offender on death row.
None of the death-penalty states with a minimum age of 18 has lowered the threshold. Montana and Indiana, however, raised the minimum age to 18. When Kansas and New York resumed the death penalty in 1994 and 1995 respectively, they limited it to killers 18 and older.
The 19 executions of juvenile killers in the U.S. account for more than half of the 34 juvenile-offender executions that have occurred throughout the world since 1990.