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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Senate Bill 103 just passed the Virginia Senate without much attention from the public on a vote of 29-10. Now the proposal heads to the House of Delegates and every Virginian should know what it does and try to stop it from becoming law.

Lawmakers claim it is about fairness to the accused. Yet, it is not fair to victims. It is not fair to the citizen jurors who heard the evidence in his case. And it is especially not fair to the millions of Virginians who were terrorized almost 20 years ago by Lee Boyd Malvo — the D.C. sniper who was tried as an adult at age 17 and sentenced to life in prison.  


If this bill is not stopped, Malvo will be eligible for parole.

Malvo’s crimes are horrifying and etched in the memories of almost every Virginian old enough to remember. Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad shot at least 21 people, killing 14 of them. In October 2002, they killed 10 people during a three-week rampage in Northern Virginia and Maryland. At the time Malvo was 17 years old. In a recorded confession, he said that he “intended to kill them all.”

Malvo’s case is rare because of the extreme nature of his crimes. He is one of handful of individuals serving a life as a juvenile. Juveniles are not tried as adults often in Virginia. It only happens after a lengthy process designed to protect the offender’s rights, considering the number of crimes committed, the seriousness of those crimes, the juvenile’s physical and emotional maturity, and the juvenile’s past history of committing other crimes.

The parole system lies to jurors when they sentence individuals upon conviction. It also lies to victims when it tells them they will be safe from the criminal for a set period of time. The reality of the parole system is that the amount of time a criminal spends in prison isn’t determined by the citizen-jurors or judges that heard the evidence. Instead, that time is determined by a group of appointed bureaucrats who are empowered to ignore the decisions of juries and judges and cut a sentence by 75 percent.

Malvo is a mass murderer. He is guilty of an extreme act of terrorism. His crimes are terrifying. He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. The victims of these horrible crimes should not be repeatedly re-victimized by the prospect that unelected bureaucrats might release him from prison early.

But Malvo isn’t the only murderer that the legislature wants to set free. House Bill 430 would end “truth in sentencing” in Virginia and make all violent and non-violent felons eligible for release. It’s horrifying.

Call your legislators in the House of Delegates before it is too late. Tell them to vote no on proposals that would bring back parole.

• Chuck Slemp is the commonwealth attorney for Wise County and the City of Norton. Wise County is home to Red Onion State Prison, the super-maximum security prison where Lee Boyd Mavo is currently incarcerated. 


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