A teenage convict charged with murder and theft turned down a plea deal that could have him spend 25 years in prison, but he quickly regretted his decision after the judge increased his sentence to 65 years behind bars.
What’s even more bizarre about the case is that the 18-year-old is charged for the murder of his criminal accomplice he did not even commit, while the police officer who was responsible for firing the gun walked free. How exactly does the liability law in the U.S. work?
Teenager Lakeith Smith was only 15-years-old when he made a bad judgement call and went on a burglary spree with his four other friends who were much older than him and had been charged with criminal offense before.
The group entered an empty home in Millbrook, Alabama, but the night didn’t end well after a neighbor saw the intruders and called the police to report suspicious activity. As the teenage group tried to sneak out after the heist, they were surprised by police officers who awaited them at the front door.
Stunned to find themselves surrounded by the police, the teenagers’ first instinct was to turn around and run out of the back door. The escape was unsuccessful as the officers fired their guns, and one of the accomplices, 16-year-old A’Donte Washington, was killed as a result of the shootout.
The footage from the body cameras worn by the police officers proves that Washington was indeed shot during the fatal confrontation with the law, but the grand jury found the shooting justified and decided to let the officer responsible for the killing walk free.
Charged for Murder He did not Commit
Instead of charging the officer who fired the fatal shot, the judges found the then-15-year-old Lakeith Smith guilty of his accomplice’s murder. The jury explained that the accomplice liability law in the state of Alabama holds that if a person involved in criminal activity is killed in a police shootout, the accomplice is held responsible for his or her murder and will be charged just as if he had fired the gun himself.
On Thursday, the Alabama teen was presented in front of the judge and given the opportunity to make a plea deal that would result in him getting 25 years in prison, but Smith turned down the offer and was instead sentenced to 65 years behind bars.
As Judge Sibley Reynolds read out the verdict in Elmore County courthouse, convicting the teen of ‘felony murder, armed burglary and second and third-degree theft’, the 18-year-old couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
The district attorney chief assistant, C.J. Robinson, said that he was happy with the sentence because by the time Smith even tries to request a parole, he would have already been in prison for more than 20 years. The teen won’t be laughing for long after he realizes the seriousness of the situation, Robinson added.
Teen’s Senseless Mistake
The Judge said that he was shocked by the teen’s unremorseful attitude during the trial. Besides failing to apologize for his crimes and laughing at the judge while the verdict was being announces, Smith was also overheard saying, ‘I don’t have time for this.’ Before giving the sentence, the Judge told Smith that he had plenty of time to repent his actions in prison and work on his attitude.
Reynolds says that had the 18-year-old showed remorse in the court or shown the jury that he was truly sorry for what he did, his sentence could have been reduced by decades. When Smith’s grandfather came forward to plead in front of the judge and ask him to give his grandson a chance to apologize, Reynolds replied that he had asked the teen if he was sorry multiple times during the trial, and each time he had failed to give a response.
The remaining three accomplices who were involved in the armed burglary have been charged on similar counts as Smith and have entered a plea deal that could result in shorter prison time. None of them have been sentenced by the judge yet.
Robinson said that he couldn’t help but feel sorry for Smith’s family while watching him being sentenced in court. The teenager’s stupid mistake resulted in his family losing him for 65 years.