Juvenile Justice Final Paper: D.C. Sniper Attacks

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October 2002 was the beginning of three treacherous weeks in the Washington Metropolitan area. Not one Washingtonian wanted to believe what was occurring in the city. The D.C. sniper attacks were a series of well thought out shootings that continued for three weeks in October 2002. The D.C. sniper events took place in the states of Maryland and Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Ten citizens were killed and three citizens were seriously injured by John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo. Several of the shootings took place in the Washington Metropolitan area and along Interstate 95 in Virginia (Dwyer, 2018 ). The mastermind and leader behind all the D.C. sniper attacks was John Allen Muhammad. When the shootings took place Muhammad was 41 years old (Battle, 2018). His accomplice was Lee Boyd Malvo. Lee Boyd Malvo was only 17 at the time of the attacks making him a juvenile(Battle, 2018). Although he was a juvenile at the time of the attacks, he was tried as an adult after the attacks. The D.C. sniper shootings changed the lives of thousands in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. Reporters, investigators, and citizens all followed the story hoping to find a pattern from the angry serial killer. America later found out this was a random killing spree by a crazy lunatic. The shootings were all part of a huge plan put together by John Allen Muhammad. Although Muhammad initiated the idea of the attacks, Lee Boyd Malvo was the active shooter at each crime scene (Augenstein, 2018).

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When the shooting initially took place, investigators and nearby civilians thought the attack was coming from a white van. After more attacks occurred and investigators continued to follow the story they realized the white van was not responsible for the shooting. It was not until after several deaths when investigators discovered that these shootings were being conducted by John Allen Muhammad, and his young and confused teenage accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo. All of the shootings were conducted out of a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice sedan (Battle, 2018). On October 2 2002, a random shot was launched from a window of a Michaels Craft Store in Aspen Hill (Dwyer, 2018). Luckily no one was shot or killed at this scene. About an hour after the random shot, Muhammad and Malvo made their first attack in the Washington Metropolitan area. An innocent pedestrian named James Martin was shot and killed in the parking lot of a grocery store (History.com Editors, 2018). The Grocery store was located in Glenmont. James Martin was a 55-year-old program analyst at NOAA (Battle, 2018).The next morning, Malvo and Muhammad shot four more people within a span of two hours. The shootings took place in Montgomery County Maryland and other nearby areas. Only a couples hours after the four shootings Malvo and Muhammad began to shoot in another area. Another civilian was killed that evening in the District of Columbia, the shooting took place only ten minutes away from Maryland. In each shooting, the victims were killed by a single bullet fired from some distance(Nuamah, 2017). Although the majority of the shootings were completed with the same gun, investigators did not pick up on a pattern. The pattern was later detected after the shootings occurred on October 3 (Nuamah, 2017). The Washington metropolitan area was filled with despair. The news of the shooting was spreading everywhere including outside of the Washington metropolitan area. All parents were concerned and began picking their children up from school early. Several parents did not allow their children to ride the bus back home from school. D.C. public schools and Montgomery County public schools were on lockdown. Not allowing anybody in or anybody out.

Also restricting the youth from having outside lunch, outside physical education classes, and recess. Muhammad and Malvo were the topic of discussion and everybody had their eyes out for the murderers. Malvo and Muhammad moved through Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia which caused them to take more time before launching another attack. The snipers relentlessly pursued their killing spree until October 23. Lee Boyd Malvo was only 17 at the time of the attacks. Juveniles are often prosecuted in juvenile courts. Juveniles who are found guilty are sent to facilities that practice rehabilitation as well as punishment. Most Juveniles only spend up to 6 months incarcerated but juveniles who commit more heinous crimes are detained until age 21. Investigators, lawyers, and judges did not have any mercy on a juvenile who committed such horrible crimes. Prosecutors did not waste any time when applying state laws that allow juveniles charged with serious felonies such as murder to be treated as adults. Although Malvo was a juvenile, he was still tried as an adult and prosecuted in traditional criminal courts rather than courts set up for juvenile delinquency. Juveniles being tried as adults is an area of the law that many citizens do not agree with because it does not allow the juvenile to grow and reap the benefits of the rehabilitative programs set up for nurturing juveniles. Because Lee Boyd Malvo shot and killed several innocent civilians he never got the opportunity to be accused of committing a delinquent act. He was formally charged with a crime since the first day of court. If Lee Boyd Malvo had been tried as a juvenile he would have had the opportunity to be under the authority of the juvenile courts until he was an adult.

This would have been a year of age appropriate treatment and healthy rehabilitation until Malvo was an adult or even longer. Lee Boyd Malvo is now a convicted murderer. He is currently serving multiple life sentences at Red Onion State Prison in Virginia, a supermax prison(Augenstein, 2018). Lee Boyd Malvo was classified as a psychopathic serial killer. Researchers have debated whether or not his psychopathy had anything to do with the vicious killing spree. Lee Boyd Malvo said he was brainwashed and forced to be a part of the attacks(Lavoie, 2018). Malvo claims he was manipulated into believing that the $10 million ransom sought from the US government to stop the sniper killings would be used to establish a Utopian society for one hundred and forty homeless black children on a Canadian compound(Lavoie, 2018). Lee Boyd Malvo and his mother, Una Sceon James, had their first encounter with John Allen Muhammad in Antigua and Barbuda around 1999(Battle, 2018). Una Sceon James and John Allen Muhammad were involved in a romantic relationship. After a couple years of living together, Malvo’s mother moved from Antigua to Fort Myers, Florida (Augenstein, 2018). She used fake documents to come to America (Augenstein, 2018). Malvo was left behind with John Allen Muhammad. Muhammad became a father figure to Malvo. Malvo’s mother had planned to smuggle her son to America in the near future. In 2001 Malvo traveled to America and arrived in Miami. After only a couple of months he and his mother were both caught by the Border Patrol(Augenstein, 2018). Una James was deported to Jamaica on December 15, 2002 in the aftermath of the shootings (Dwyer, 2018).

Malvo served time at a local jail until he was released on bond in January 2002. After being released from jail Malvo moved to Bellingham, Washington, where he lived in a homeless shelter with Muhammad(Augenstein, 2018). Regardless of not having much money and living in a homeless shelter, Malvo enrolled in Bellingham High School. In order for him to enroll in school Muhammad had to lie and list himself as Malvo’s father (Augenstein, 2018). After the shootings, students from Bellingham High school spoke out about Malvo saying he never spoke to anyone at school and he did not make any friends. One day after school Malvo shoplifted a Bushmaster XM-15 from Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply (Augenstein, 2018). This gun would later be used in all the vicious attacks in the Washington Metropolitan area. Malvo was initially arrested and charged with more than one federal offense. The charges were quickly dropped due to location. Malvo was moved to a jail in Fairfax county Virginia. He was later charged by the Commonwealth of Virginia for two capital crimes: the murder of FBI analyst Linda Franklin “in the commission of an act of terrorism” and the murder of more than one person in a three-year period (citation). Not only was he charged with murder, he was also charged with the unlawful use of a firearm in the murder of Franklin (citation). While in jail Malvo made a recorded confession to Detective Samuel Walker in which he stated that he “intended to kill them all” (citation). His court venue was later moved from FairFax Virginia to Chesapeake Virginia. Malvo pleaded not guilty. He claims he was insane and was under the complete control of Muhammad.

Malvo should have received more sympathy from the court because he was a juvenile at the time of the shootings. Although his crimes were diabolical, he should have been tried as a juvenile. Juvenile courts are responsible for three categories of youths which include delinquents, status offenders, and dependent and neglected children. Lee Boyd Malvo was technically a delinquent at the time of the shooting because he committed crimes that would be defined as criminal even if he was an adult. Juvenile courts cover both misdemeanors and felonies but Lee Boyd Malvo was not given the chance for Juvenile court. Lee Boyd Malvo was also a dependent/neglected child at the time of the shootings. His mother had left him with Muhammad and after moving to America he became a slave to Muhammad. Malvo could have easily been affected by Anomie theory. Anomie theory can also be defined as normlessness. It is the lack of normal or ethical or social standards. The Anomie theory first emerged in 1893 by French sociologist David ?‰mile Durkheim. Durkheim first explained the idea of Anomie theory in his book entitled The division of labor in Society. In the book Durkheim indicated that the rules of how individuals interact with one another were deteriorating and therefore people were unable to determine how to interact with one another. He is saying that the expectations of behavior were unclear and the system has broken down. Durkheim claims that normlessness can cause extreme deviant behavior, depression, and suicide. The idea of Anomie theory explains individuals who choose criminal activity because the individual believes there is no reason not to. Lee Boyd Malvo was partially raised by a malicious psychopath who more than likely taught him to do wrong things. He never had anyone to explain to him what was wrong and right. He was only taught to follow demands from Muhammad without question. People such as John Allen Muhammad use corruptive and manipulative techniques to take control of other people.

They brainwash their partners using a practice called perspecticide. When the word partner is used people usually think of a romantic partner. However a partner can be any person who takes part in an activity with another or many other people. In this case Lee Boyd Malvo serves as John Allen Muhammad partner in crime. People who are in an abusive relationship are more likely to become victim to perspecticide. In several interviews Malvo says Muhammad would often physically abuse him when growing up and used extreme physical abuse when planning for the attacks. Malvo also says he was sexually molested by Muhammad. Muhammad used physical abuse to make Malvo believe so many things that aren’t true. He no longer understood what was real and what was fake, he only knew what Muhammad told him. Malvo had become a prisoner in his own life. He was not allowed to do anything unless Muhammad told him to do it. He ultimately could not think on his own and depended on Muhammad for instruction. While Malvo was on trial, one of his public defenders said that violent video games had also affected the way Malvo was thinking. The brutally violent video games also contributed to Malvo’s willingness to commit murder. Cooley his public defendant said, “He’s trained and desensitized with video games, computer games, to train him to shoot human forms over and over(citation). Malvo could have been affected by social learning theory if he played the violent video game every day. It is proven that People learn through observing others’ behavior, attitudes, and outcomes of those behaviors(citation). If Malvo only had interactions with Muhammad and violent video games, it would be easy for him to learn violent behavior.

Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action. (Bandura). Sociologists Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K. Olson who followed and studied the case argue against Malvo. Kutner and Olson say his testimony in court proves he was not influenced only by video games. Malvo admitted to shooting a real gun at paper plates. The paper plates would represent a human head. Prior to the D.C. sniper shootings Malvo had a background of being antisocial. He also had a criminal background that included torturing animals at a young age. Torturing animals is one of the most famous signs of future violent criminal acts (citation). Despite the many negative aspects that could have encouraged Lee Boyd Malvo to engage in the terrorist like D.C. sniper shootings, he was still convicted of both charges. The jury deliberated for over 13 hours and decided on convicting Malvo with both charges. The jury thought this was the best way to serve justice to all the families who lost someone in the reckless attacks. The jury harshly recommended a sentence of life in prison. As if life in prison was not harsh enough for a 17 year old minor, the jury also recommended that Malvo have no chance at getting out of prison. They recommended life without the possibility of parole for the murder of Franklin. On March 10, 2004, Malvo was sentenced to life in prison without parole (citation). Seven months after being sentenced to life in prison without parole Malvo returned back to court under a plea bargain.

Malvo was willing to plead guilty in order to avoid getting the death penalty. Malvo knew that the death penalty was a huge option especially because Muhammad had been sentenced to death earlier in the year. Malvo pleaded guilty to attempting to murder Caroline Seawell while in Virginia and murdering Kenneth Bridges (citation). While in court, Malvo also pleaded guilty to having two illegal firearms. The firearms were found in the vehicle with Muhammad and Malvo when they were both caught sleeping. Malvo was later sentenced again to life in prison without parole for murder. The judge also added eight additional years to his life sentence due to the weapons charges (citation). Although Malvo had already been sentenced to life in prison with an additional 8 years, Virginia prosecutors in Prince William County still wanted him to receive the death penalty. The prosecutors decided to wait before attempting to have Malvo executed. They could not move forward with charging Malvo with additional capital charges because he was a juvenile at the time of shooting. It was up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether juveniles could be officially sentenced to death and executed by the U.S. government (citation). In 2005 the Supreme Court decision in Roper v. Simmons highlighted the fact that the Eighth Amendment does not allow execution for crimes committed when under the age of 18. Therefore, the prosecutors in Prince William County could not move forward with charging Malvo.

Malvo and Muhammad had murdered civilians all around the Washington metropolitan area. They also murdered people in Louisiana and Alabama. Although the prosecutors in Prince William County could not proceed, prosecutors in Maryland, Louisiana and Alabama were still interested in putting both Malvo and Muhammad to death. Lee Boyd Malvo could face more sentencing in Alabama and Louisiana. Malvo being under the age of 18 when committing the crimes may be the only reason he is still alive. As of right now he cannot face the death penalty. Both Muhammad and Malvo were both arrested in Maryland. Although they were arrested in Maryland they were extradited to Virginia because of the different laws on the death penalty. The death penalty is allowed in Maryland, however it does not apply to people under the age of 18 when committing a crime. Virginia laws do allow the death penalty to people under the age of 18 when committing a crime. Prosecutors wanted both Muhammad and Malvo to be sentenced to death and they knew the sentencing was more likely to result in execution in Virginia than in Maryland. Virginia is known for executing murderers where Maryland has a reputation of being more lenient than Virginia.

Maryland later abolished its death penalty for both juveniles and adults in 2013. Because Malvo and Muhammad had committed various crimes across state lines it was hard for the courts to come to a decision. After three long years Maryland and Virginia came to an agreement. Maryland was able to start the prosecuting process for some of the many charges Muhammad and Malvo had pending. When Maryland began prosecuting Malvo, he was extradited back to Maryland. Malvo was finally moved to Montgomery County, Maryland under heavy security before receiving his final sentencing. In conclusion, Lee Boyd Malvo served as an accomplice to John Allen Muhammad in the 2002 D.C. Sniper attacks. Malvo could have easily been brainwashed due to the way he grew up and the people around him. Although he should pay for what he did to innocent Americans, he did not receive any sympathy for his upbringing or for his mental health. Malvo also did not receive any rehabilitative service as a Juvenile. Although he will spend the remainder of his life in prison rehabilitative services, mental health programs, therapy, and human interaction can be beneficial to him changing as a person.

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Juvenile Justice Final Paper: D.C. Sniper Attacks. (2019, Jul 08). Retrieved December 7, 2022 , from

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