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US Jury Recommends Teenage Sniper Be Sentenced to Life in Prison - 2003-12-23

A jury in the eastern U.S. state of Virginia jury has sentenced Washington, D.C.-area sniper Lee Boyd Malvo to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The sentence came five days after the jurors found the 18-year-old guilty in connection with a string of shootings that claimed 10 lives in the autumn of 2002, in and around the U.S. capital.

Under the state of Virginia's sentencing guidelines, Malvo faced either death or life in prison without parole.

The jurors began the sentencing phase of their deliberations last Friday, one day after they found him guilty for the death of Linda Franklin, who was shot and killed in the parking lot of a shopping center on October 14, 2002 in northern Virginia. The jury convicted Malvo of capital murder and terrorism, the latter charge for the impact his actions had on the community.

Malvo and his companion, John Muhammad, were accused of killing 10 people and injuring three during a string of shootings that terrorized the Washington area in the autumn of last year. A separate Virginia jury recommended a death sentence for Muhammad last month after convicting him of murder.

During the sentencing phase of Malvo's trial, relatives of Ms. Franklin and of other victims told the jury in emotional detail about the devastating impact the shootings had on their lives. Many argued that the 18-year-old deserved the death penalty every bit as much as Muhammad. Some jurors wept during the testimony.

But by sentencing him to life in prison, the jurors in Chesapeake, Virginia, rejected the arguments of prosecutors who had argued that the death penalty was the only appropriate sentence for Malvo.

The young man's attorney, Craig Cooley, argued during the trial that there were genuine mitigating factors in the case. He told jurors John Muhammad had brainwashed the 18-year-old, who was therefore not responsible for his actions.

Relatives of the sniper's victims later said they were disappointed by the life sentence recommendation. Paul LaRuffa, who was wounded outside his pizza restaurant, near Washington, during last year's shootings, told reporters outside the courtroom the recommendation minimizes the impact of Malvo's actions.

Meanwhile, it is not clear whether Malvo and the 42 year-old Muhammad will face other trials elsewhere. Police have also linked both men to fatal shootings in Louisiana, Alabama and Arizona. A Louisiana prosecutor says he will seek the death penalty against them.