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Lakeith Smith Gets 65 Years, But The Shooter Was The Police

The teenager laughed during sentencing, drawing the ire of the judge and some in the media. But was it a fair conviction?

By Jon Silman

The teen sat in the courtroom and laughed as he was sentenced. He smiled broadly when he was let out of the courtroom. He had turned down a plea deal to only serve 25 years, hoping to win in court. Now, he's got 65, according to the Montgomery Advertiser

Lakeith Smith, 18, was sentenced 30 years for accomplice murder, 15 for burglary and 10 each for two theft convictions. In February 2015, five teens broke into two houses in Millbrook, Alabama, in an attempt to rob them, say the police. One of the teens, A'Donte Washington, 16, was killed by a cop bullet after both sides reportedly exchanged gunfire, according to the Miami Herald. So why was his friend held accountable for "accomplice murder"?

In Alabama, a person can be charged with the murder of an accomplice if that murder occurs while they're committing the crime together. This accomplice law is part of felony-murder laws that draw from English common law, but are rare outside of the United States — even the United Kingdom recently narrowed their definition, ruling that the accused must have had "foresight" and "intention," according to the BBC. It is difficult to imagine that Smith would have had either in this situation. A jury found Smith guilty after a two-day trial in March. A grand jury found the officer acted in accordance with the law, and his name was not released. 

Throughout his sentencing, Smith smiled and laughed, according to the Advertiser. He "flashed a broad smile" as he was being led out of the courtroom. He also turned down that plea deal that the other teens accepted. (La’Anthony Washington, 22, Jhavarske Jackson, 23 and Jadarien Hardy, 22 have pleaded guilty to the murder, theft and burglary charges, but haven’t been sentenced yet.)

Alabama Circuit Court Judge Sibley Reynolds seemed incensed by the teen's supposed good spirits. 

“I don’t think Mr. Smith will be smiling long when he gets to prison,” Robinson said, according to the Advertiser. “We are very pleased with this sentence. Because the sentences are consecutive, it will be a long time before he comes up for even the possibility for parole, at least 20 to 25 years.” 

In Feb. of 2015, Smith and four other people broke into two homes in Millbrook, Police were called and one Smith's accomplices shot at an officer as he entered the home, according to the Montgomery Adviser. They continued shooting at police as they ran into the backyard.

Washington, 16, ran out through a privacy fence holding a 38 cal. revolver. Police officer body camera footage played in court showed Washington run toward an officer with his gun pointed forward. The officer fired four times and killed Washington.

Smith's lawyer did not think the Smith deserved the convictions. 

"The officer shot A'donte, not Lakeith Smith," Smith's lawyer, Jennifer Holton, said during the trial, according to MSN. "Lakeith was a 15-year-old child, scared to death. He did not participate in the act that caused the death of A'donte. He never shot anybody."

The other co-defendants in the case are La’Anthony Washington, 22,  Jhavarske Jackson, 23, and Jadarien Hardy, 22. They've all entered guilty pleas and await sentencing. 

[Photo: Elmore County Jail]

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