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Teens sentenced to life without parole may have chance to walk free

A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court could give young inmates facing life in prison an opportunity to be released.

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- One of the most infamous killers in the last two decades might have a chance at freedom, thanks to a sweeping ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

Lee Boyd Malvo was only 17 years old when he and 42-year-old John Allen Muhammad were convicted of killing 10 people in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. in the Beltway Sniper Attacks in 2002.

Malvo received a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

Excerpt of an article from April 10, 1996 detailing life sentence given to a 17-year-old convicted of beating a man to death with a cinder block.

In May of this year, a federal judge threw out Malvo’s sentence and ordered a new sentencing hearing after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional.

Attorney Julie McConnell, who specializes in juvenile defense cases, explained that the justices felt minors shouldn't be sentenced the same way adults are.

“We should take into consideration the fact that they are young, that their brains aren’t fully developed, and that there’s still a chance that they can turn into productive and non-violent members of our society," McConnell said.

13News Now spoke with the first inmate in Virginia to be re-sentenced after the SCOTUS ruling, Azeem Majeed.

Azeem Majeed's booking photo from 1996, when he was 17 years old and went by the name Lorenzo McLean.

In 1995, Majeed, formerly known as Lorenzo McLean, was part of a group that murdered a man in a Norfolk park using a 62-pound cinder block. McLean was 17 years old when he received a mandatory life sentence.

“I was a very angry young man,” said Majeed. “I don’t think that I understood that I was angry back then and you know, understood the reasons why, the causes why I was angry.”

Excerpt of an article from April 10, 1996 detailing Lorenzo McLean aka Azeem Majeed's involvement in the beating death of a man. McLean was 17 years old at the time, and would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

After reviewing his case, a judge re-sentenced Majeed. His sentence was reduced from two life sentences plus 20 years to approximately 29 years.

Since Majeed already served almost 23 years behind bars, he has about six years left to serve.

McConnell explained that during re-sentencing, the court could have found that a life sentence was appropriate for Majeed, it just couldn't be mandatory.

“In his case we have a very clear example of someone who committed very heinous crimes for which he feels incredible remorse, yet he has spent the entire time he has been in prison, for more than 20 years, without ever getting in trouble – not once,” said McConnell.

Majeed said he found direction through religion and wanted to start over, which included changing his name from Lorenzo McLean to Azeem Shakur Majeed.

Left: Azeem Majeed's booking photo from 1996, when he was 17 years old and went by the name Lorenzo McLean. Right: Majeed's present-day booking photo.

“I’m extremely grateful and that’s why I feel like I have to spend the rest of my life giving back,” said Majeed. “That’s why juvenile justice advocacy and restorative justice advocacy is so important to me.”

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