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As Northam signs bill extending parole eligibility for juveniles, convicted D.C. sniper drops resentencing request

A police officer walks into the John Marshall Courthouse in downtown Richmond.
A police officer walks into the John Marshall Courthouse in downtown Richmond.(Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Published: Feb. 24, 2020 at 9:29 PM EST
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Virginia will extend parole eligibility to people convicted of felonies they committed when they were under the age of 18, prompting convicted sniper Lee Boyd Malvo to drop a resentencing request that had been pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The bill is the second to be signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam since Democrats won control of the General Assembly in November. (The first was a routine tax conformity bill.)

Under the new law, anyone who has served at least 20 years for a crime they committed as a juvenile is eligible to petition the state’s parole board for release. Advocates say it will affect 700 people who were sentenced as children in adult court and are currently incarcerated. It goes into effect July 1.

“It’s a huge victory,” Heather Renwick, legal director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, told The Appeal, noting it would also “provide broader relief and parole eligibility for all kids sentenced in the adult system.”

The Appeal, which covers criminal justice issues nationwide, observes that it remains uncertain how much relief the new law will provide in practice: “It will only make people eligible to go in front of a parole board, with no guarantee that anyone gets paroled. And the recent history of Virginia’s board is to quasi-systematically deny the applications it receives. This signals the importance of strengthening the parole process alongside reforms that expand eligibility.”

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation.

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