<bt>The United States is the only country in the world to have officially executed a juvenile offender since November 2001, according to Craig Cooley and Michael Arif, defense attorneys for teenage sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo.
"The world has spoken, and this is not a close call," Cooley said, at a Fairfax Circuit Court hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 17. "It is getting to a point of everybody in the world except Texas and Virginia."
Malvo's defense attorneys filed a motion to prohibit the possibility of the death penalty for Malvo, claiming that the death penalty for juveniles violates international law, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
Malvo's stands trial in Chesapeake, Va., beginning on Nov. 10 for the murder of Arlington resident Linda Franklin during sniper attacks that left 10 dead and three injured in the Washington area in October 2002.
"The juvenile death penalty is virtually extinct," said Dr. Richard J. Wilson, of American University's Washington College of Law, an expert witness who testified for Malvo.
"It is no small irony that this nation, which in many respects holds itself out as the paragon of civil and individual rights, is the only nation on earth where governmental authorities openly endorse and engage in this universally condemned practice," Cooley and Arif wrote in their motion heard by Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush.
But American law and Virginia law are clear in allowing the death penalty, prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. countered during the hearing.
"If a juvenile commits a crime [in Virginia], the potential for the death penalty is in the equation," Horan said. The issue at the hearing, he said, wasn't international law, it was U.S. law. And until the Supreme Court or the Virginia legislature changes it, he said, capital punishment is permitted under case law.
Even though Roush denied the defense's motion, Malvo, now 18, smiled as Cooley presented his argument.
"What you are seeing now is a young man who is released from the possession of Mr. Muhammad," Arif said, following the hearing. "You're seeing the happy-go-lucky kid he used to be."
Sniper suspect John Muhammad, 42, stands trial this October for the killing of Dean Harold Myers at a gas station in Manassas.
— Ken Moore