Malvo could become the nation's youngest death row inmate

Malvo could become the nation's youngest inmate who is awaiting execution

Richmond Times-Dispatch/December 19, 2003
By Frank Green

Chesapeake -- If sentenced to death, Lee Boyd Malvo could become the nation's youngest death-row inmate.

Malvo, now 18, was 17 when he and John Allen Muhammad, 42, allegedly shot and killed as many as 18 people across the country from Tacoma, Wash., to Ashland. Ten were killed and three wounded in the Maryland-Virginia-D.C. area last fall.

According to data compiled by Victor L. Streib, professor of law at Ohio Northern University, of the 73 people on death rows in the United States who committed capital murders when they were younger than 18, the youngest was 20 years old as of Nov. 15.

Robert Deans of the Death Penalty Information Center said that as of Sept. 1, the youngest death row inmate in the country was Jorge Salinas, 19, of Texas.

The youngest of the 27 death row inmates in Virginia is Kent Jackson, 22, convicted of capital murder in Newport News, said Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Streib said Wednesday that "most juvenile offenders sentenced to death are 18 or 19 when they first go on death row."

Of the 7,466 men and women sentenced to death in the United States since 1973, 224 killed when they were juveniles. Twenty-two have been executed: 13 in Texas, accounting for 59 percent of the total; and 3 in Virginia, for 14 percent.

Streib said fewer juvenile offenders are being sentenced to death and the rate is now at its lowest point in 15 years. In 1999, 15 juvenile offenders were sentenced to death but as of Nov. 15, only one juvenile killer has been sentenced to death in the United States this year.

Of the 38 states with the death penalty, the federal government and the military, 21 states permit the execution of juvenile offenders and only 13 of the 21 currently have a juvenile offender on their death rows.

Those who favor banning the execution of juvenile offenders contend that juveniles are less able to consider the consequences of their actions, are easily swayed by peers and show poor judgment.

Those who favor it in appropriate circumstances argue that the age at the time of the offense should be but one factor the jury or judges should use in weighing whether to sentence someone to death or impose a life sentence.

Opponents were given hope by last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning the execution of retarded people because of "evolving standards of decency." Thus far, however, the high court has declined to take up the question.

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