Silent Malvo Sentenced To Life

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CBS/AP
A Virginia judge sentenced teenage sniper Lee Boyd Malvo to life in prison Wednesday, a day after another court condemned his accomplice John Allen Muhammad to death.

The outcome of Wednesday's sentencing was predetermined: the judge had to follow a jury's recommendation of life in prison as Malvo's punishment for the October 2002 killing spree in the Washington, D.C., area that left 10 people dead.

The only question was whether Malvo would speak about his role in the killings that terrorized the region for three weeks. He did not.

It is unclear what will happen next with Malvo. Prosecutors in other states, including Alabama and Louisiana, are seeking his extradition to face potential death-penalty charges there for killings that occurred in the weeks before the D.C. sniper spree.

Prosecutors in Prince William County, who obtained the death penalty against Muhammad, initially said they wanted to seek the death penalty against Malvo as well. But they have recently said they may want to wait and see the outcome of a pending U.S. Supreme Court case on the execution of juveniles. Malvo was 17 at the time of the sniper spree.

Prosecutor Paul Ebert said he might announce a decision Wednesday on whether he'll seek to prosecute Malvo.

The capital-area killings began on Oct. 2, 2002, when the pair shot a 55-year-old man to death outside a Wheaton, Md., supermarket. The following day, five people were killed in the Washington area - four within a span of about two hours.

Muhammad and Malvo were captured Oct. 24 at a highway rest stop near Myersville, Md., in a car that had been altered to allow someone to fire a high-powered rifle from inside the trunk.

During his sentencing Tuesday, Muhammad again denied any role in the killings, echoing a claim of innocence he made in his opening statement to the jury when he briefly served as his own attorney.

"Just like I said at the beginning, I had nothing to do with this, and I'll say again, I had nothing to do with this," Muhammad said Tuesday.

But Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. said the evidence of Muhammad's guilt was "overwhelming" and sentenced him to death.

"These offenses are so vile that they were almost beyond comprehension," Millette said.

Unlike in the Malvo case, Millette had the option of reducing the jury's recommendation of death to life in prison without parole. Virginia law allows a judge to reduce a jury's recommended sentence but not increase it.

Muhammad, 43, was convicted of capital murder on Nov. 17 for the Oct. 9, 2002, murder of Dean Harold Meyers at a gas station near Manassas. But relatives of other victims were pleased at his sentence.

"Justice has been served today," said Sonia Wills, mother of sniper victim Conrad Johnson, who would have been 37 this Sunday. "I can go to my son's grave and wish him a happy birthday."

The sister of Hong Im Ballenger, allegedly killed by Muhammad and Malvo in Baton Rouge, La., in the weeks before the D.C. attacks, said Muhammad deserved to die.

"He killed so many innocent people," said a tearful Kwang Im Szuszka. "My nephew is 12 years old and he needs his mommy. ... It breaks my heart."

During Muhammad's trial, prosecutors described him as "captain of a killing team" and portrayed him as a father figure to Malvo. But Defense lawyer Peter Greenspun pleaded for Millette to show mercy on Muhammad, saying his client is not inherently evil.

"I've represented a lot of bad guys," Greenspun said. "I've represented guys that you look them in the eye and see evil. I've spent a lot of time with John Allen Muhammad and that's not him."