On March 19, 2019, the United States Supreme Court granted the request of the State of Virginia, which the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Inc. (MCVRC) supported in a written filing, to review the decision of the Federal courts that had overturned the Virginia state court rulings upholding Malvo’s four Virginia life sentences for first degree murder that were imposed in 2004. (Randall Mathena, Warden, v. Lee Boyd Malvo, U.S.Supreme Court No. 18-217).
The issue that will be reviewed is whether, pursuant to the Supreme Court’s prior ruling in Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718, 735 (2016), sentencing courts must issue a specific formal finding that a defendant who was under 18 at the time of the crime could never be rehabilitated, before a life sentence could be imposed, including in cases where the record at sentencing, taken as a whole, supported the conclusion that the court had implicitly reached that same conclusion.
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:
“Resentencing 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 resentencing 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 that courts tasked with acting fairly and justly on defendants’ requests to reopen their old closed sentences must consider, in addition to the impact of long incarceration on a defendant, the trauma to victims who will suffer having to publicly tear open 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.”
MCVRC is a statewide Maryland non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that the rights of victims of crime are fully implemented and that crime victims are treated with dignity and compassion. MCVRC (www.mdcrimevictims.org/help) offers no cost legal representation and grief counseling, counseling, and other assistance. MCVRC makes its free services available to victims including family members of homicide victims and can be reached, toll free at 1-877-VICTIM1 and at 301-952-0063. In separate State and federal proceedings in Maryland, MCVRC represents a family member of one of Malvo’s victims.