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Teen sniper who shot 10 people dead wants lighter sentence

A sniper who killed 10 people at random and terrorised Washington DC region during a three-week rampage is seeking a new hearing to secure a lighter sentence.

Lee Boyd Malvo was 17 years old when he and his mentor, John Allen Muhammad, shot people as they filled up at petrol stations, loaded parcels into their cars and went about their everyday business in 2002.

Muhammad was executed in Virginia in 2009, but Malvo was spared the death penalty and sentenced to 10 life terms instead.

Now, a lawyer is urging a federal appeals court to review Malvo’s sentence after the US Supreme Court ruled that mandatory, life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional.

Craig Cooley says his client is entitled to a new sentencing hearing because the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2016 was retroactive.

During Malvo’s initial trial, Mr Cooley said the judge had only offered jurors two options for sentencing – life in prison without parole or the death penalty – with no option for a lesser sentence.

Jurors were unanimous in their decision to give him a life sentence instead of the death penalty, with Mr Cooley arguing that this indicates “they may have gone lower if they knew they could have”.

Malvo had agreed to his sentence as part of a plea deal, but his lawyer says the killer had agreed to “what is now an illegal sentence, an unconstitutional sentence”.

His original lawyer Craig Cooley appeared on Tuesday for the hearing in Virginia
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His original trial lawyer Craig Cooley appeared on Tuesday for the hearing in Virginia

One of those killed by the pair was Linda Franklin, a 47-year-old FBI analyst who had been shopping at a Home Depot store in Virginia with her husband. Malvo was sentenced for assisting with her murder.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University told Associated Press that the chances of a lower sentence were like “defusing nine out of 10 bombs”.

He said: “There are many juveniles who can make strong claims under this new precedent for lower sentences. Malvo just doesn’t happen to be one of them.

“For Malvo, it’s like defusing nine out of 10 bombs. In the end, unless you can defuse all 10, the result is pretty much the same.”

In an interview to the Washington Post in 2013, Malvo repeated assertions that his older partner manipulated him – but did describe himself as a “monster”.

Malvo’s life sentences were spread across two states – Virginia and Maryland. A judge in Maryland ruled last year that he is not entitled to new sentencing hearings.

Mr Cooley told reporters that Malvo only wants the opportunity to argue for a new sentence, with the lawyer adding: “In the end, it doesn’t mean that he’s walking out of prison.”

The court has not indicated when it will deliver a ruling on Malvo’s request.

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