What Happened to Lakeith Smith? Petition, Parents & Age

By | March 29, 2023

A man who was sentenced as a teenager to more than five decades in prison after police shot his friend was resentenced on 21 March 2023 to 30 years behind bars.

LaKeith Smith was just 15 when he and his friends burglarized several homes in Millbrook. During the crimes, police responded and fatally shot Smith’s friend, 16-year-old A’Donte Washington.

Under Alabama’s accomplice liability law, Smith was charged with Washington’s murder. In 2018, at the age of 19, he was sentenced to a total of 65 years in prison by Elmore County Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds. He was convicted of felony murder, two counts of theft, and one count of burglary. An appeals court later ruled Smith’s two theft sentences should be run concurrently, changing the sentence to a total of 55 years.

That particular Alabama felony murder statute allows a person to be charged with murder if they are participating in a felony crime that results in death, whether or not that person actually pulled the trigger.

Smith’s lawyer, Leroy Maxwell Jr., said the outcome of Tuesday’s resentencing hearing wasn’t what he wanted. “Today doesn’t feel like justice,” he said. He posted a video on an Instagram page dedicated to his client, confirming that Reynolds handed down the new sentence of 30 years.

Smith’s charges stem from crimes committed in February 2015. Prosecutors said at the time that Millbrook police responded to a call at a home on Clearview Lane on Feb. 25, 2015, and that, when officers arrived, they found one suspect with a firearm sitting inside a vehicle. Two officers approached the home noted in the call, one going inside and the other to the side of the house near a privacy fence. The officer on the outside of the home heard shots fired inside and then saw several suspects fleeing the residence. One of the suspects was running toward the officer with a firearm, prosecutors said, and the officer fired.

Washington was shot and killed; four suspects, including Smith, were taken into custody.

“This isn’t the sentence we wanted. This isn’t reflective of what actually happened,” Maxwell said Tuesday.

The State Bureau of Investigation worked on the case of the officer’s shooting and eventually presented the case to an Elmore County grand jury. In July 2016, the grand jury deemed the officer’s actions justifiable.

Maxwell filed a Rule 32, or type of appeal, of Smith’s sentence in 2021. His legal team argued Washington “was found without a gun in his hands and fatally shot in the back of the neck at the base of the brain in addition to the back of the shoulder and underarm.”

After the judge questioned Smith’s statement, he said, “That’s why I don’t like to talk. I mess myself up when I talk. That’s why I prefer to be quiet.”

Smith’s new legal team said the interaction showed an “appearance of a lack of impartiality,” from the judge.

“At the time of sentencing, (Smith) had an eighth-grade education and was nineteen years old. He did not possess the educational, intellectual, or emotional maturity necessary to be able to effectively express himself at the hearing, which upset the judge,” his appeal states.

While in prison, according to the appeal documents, Smith has not had any serious rule violations or engaged in physical violence. His family said he’s matured while behind bars and has been enrolled in GED classes and plans to pursue welding.

Supporters flocked to the resentencing hearing on Tuesday afternoon at the Elmore County Courthouse and appeared on a “Justice4LaKeithSmith” Instagram page showing their support. Maxwell addressed the crowd following the hearing.

“I hate this outcome for y’all,” he said, commenting that he believes the felony murder statute disproportionately affects young, Black men like Smith.

He said he will appeal the ruling.

“It’s time to take the gloves off at this point,” Maxwell said. “This time around, we need to challenge this conviction.”

“The felony murder rule has got to go… We are going to get justice for LaKeith Smith I’ve got no doubt about that.”

Check out our previous post here.

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