The Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center Advocates for Victims’ Rights in the United States Supreme Court
On March 19, 2019, the United States Supreme Court decided it will consider whether Lee Boyd Malvo must be resentenced by the State of Virginia. Malvo was sentenced in Virginia to four life sentences for first degree murder in 2004. Since that time the Supreme Court has changed its interpretation of the procedures that a judge must follow before imposing mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole upon defendants under the age of 18. The court has also stated that its ruling is retroactive.
In this case, the Supreme Court will decide whether a sentencing judge, before imposing a life without parole sentence on a person under 18, must issue a specific formal finding that all the circumstances show that the person is “irreparable corrupt” and can never be rehabilitated.
The Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Inc. (MCVRC) previously supported in a written filing the request by the State of Virginia that has now been granted, that the Supreme Court review the decisions of the Federal courts that overturned the Virginia state court rulings which had upheld Malvo’s four 2004 Virginia life sentences for first degree murder.
Russell P. Butler, Executive Director, and Victor Stone, as attorneys for MCVRC filed an amicus brief in the Court on behalf of crime victims urging the Court to accept the case and reverse the ruling that vacated Malvo’s life without parole sentences. MCVRC’s brief argued that reversing the sentences would cause the family members of Malvo’s victims’ serious harm and the Court should consider that harm to the victims when determining the legal issues in the case.
“Re-sentencing determinations are not a “no cost” event, or of only de minimus harm to victims. A victim’s interest in finality is an interest in fairness. As [the Supreme Court two decades ago] indicated:
Only with real finality can the victims of crime move forward knowing the moral judgment will be carried out. … To unsettle these expectations is to inflict a profound injury to the “powerful and legitimate interest in punishing the guilty,” … an interest shared by the State and the victims of crime alike.
Reopening a sentence causes harm to victims because it unsettles the finality of sentences. The emotional exhaustion, depression, and horror for a victim, often never ending, is greatly amplified by re-sentencing proceedings.”
The legal position advocated in MCVRC’s brief is that the:
“… Fifth Amendment constitutional and federal statutory substantive and procedural due process fairness protections were Constitutionally guaranteed [not just to defendants, but also] to victims by enactment of 18 U.S.C.3771(a)(8), which provides to victims “The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.”
Commenting upon the Supreme Court’s action, Roberta Roper, a founder of MCVRC, stated that “In response to MCVRC’s written brief, the decision of the Supreme Court to review this case provides an opportunity to obtain a Supreme Court ruling about whether courts, before ordering old cases to be reopened, must consider not only the impact of long incarceration on a defendant, but also the trauma to victims who will suffer having to reopen their deep and very personal wounds in order to provide a new victim impact statement to the court, many years after their original painful recounting of the harm resulting from the crime.”
Malvo’s Maryland life sentences without parole were upheld by a Maryland state court judge in 2017 who ruled that Malvo’s 2004 Maryland sentencing had properly taken into account Malvo’s age and other circumstances, and that his original sentencing court did not need to state any specific formal findings to that effect. That 2017 decision is currently pending on appeal to Maryland’s highest court. Malvo has also filed a challenge to his Maryland sentences in federal court in Maryland, which has not yet been ruled upon.
The brief submitted by MCVRC for this case can be viewed by going to www.mdcrimevictims.org/MalvoBrief