Millbrook, AL — Lakeith Smith, an African American man from Alabama, was just 15-years old when he was convicted of felony murder after a police officer shot and killed his friend in 2015 under the state’s accomplice liability law. Although he did not cause death or harm to anyone, Lakeith was sentenced to 55 years in prison simply because he was with his friend when this happened.
Lakeith, who is now 20-years old, admits to breaking into two homes with four friends when police caught them. In the body camera footage, it can be seen that one of Smith’s accomplices, 16-year old A’Donte Washington, fired shots to the police.
An officer, who was not publicly identified, fatally shot back and killed Washington almost instantly. The officer was cleared from any wrongdoing as the grand jury ruled that the shooting was justified.
Lakeith was convicted of two counts of theft, burglary, and felony murder in 2018. Under Alabama’s accomplice liability law, Smith was found guilty of murder because Washington died while they were accomplices committing a crime, even though he did not directly cause the death.
Despite being a minor when the shooting happened, Smith was tried as an adult. He was initially sentenced to 65 years in prison — 30 years for felony murder, 15 years for burglary, and 10 years for theft. His sentence was reduced to 55 years when a judge ruled that his 10-year sentence could run concurrently with the 15-year sentence.
Smith’s other accomplices, Jadarien Hardy, Jhavarske Jackson, and La’Anthony Washington, all accepted plea deals. But Smith declined a plea agreement that would have reduced his sentence to 25 years.
“The officer shot A’donte, not Lakeith Smith,” defense attorney Jennifer Holton said during Smith’s trial, according to USA Today. “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.”
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