In an interview with Today‘s Matt Lauer, Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the two men convicted in a series of deadly DC sniper attacks, stated that he was sexually abused by co-defendant John Muhammad. Malvo told Lauer that the abuse began at age 15 and continue to the pair were arrested. Malvo was 17 at the time. He is now 27 and currently serving several life sentences without the possibility of parole. Malvo said that he had only recently become comfortable enough to admit the truth. Muhammad is not around to refute the claim, having been executed in 2009. Some might think that this is a cynical ploy for the attention and sympathy of the public, for whom the memories of those nine senseless deaths (and three woundings) may have become hazier over the last decade.
Presuming that Malvo’s claims are true, should they justify any kind of lenience? Malvo was a minor during the shooting spree, and under the sole supervision and guidance of a man – if we’re to take Malvo’s word for it – sexually abused him for years. Even without the sex abuse, their relationship was supremely dysfunctional by any definition, but does that mitigate to any degree Malvo’s responsibility for his actions?