Protests Spark Renewed Outcry Over Black Teen’s 55-Year 'Accomplice' Prison Sentence
Nationwide protests against racism sparked another outcry over the 55-year sentence that an Alabama teenager received after being sentenced to accomplice liability under the state law when his friend died in 2015 by a police officer was fatally shot.
Lakeith Smith was 15 years old when he and four friends broke into two houses and were faced with police in Millbrook, Alabama, a small town about 10 miles north of Montgomery.
One of Smith's accomplices, 16-year-old A'Donte Washington, exchanged gunfire with an officer. The officer, whose identity was not released publicly, subsequently shot Washington. A large jury released the official from any wrongdoing in 2016 and described the fatal shootout as justified.
During a two-day trial in 2018, a jury sentenced Smith to two cases of theft, burglary, and crime murder under the Alabama accomplice law.
The law states that a person can be guilty of murder if death occurs, if he commits a crime, even if the person is not the person who caused the death directly, according to the Montgomery Adviser. Most states have similar laws.
Lakeith Smith was sentenced to death by A’Donte Washington, who was fatally shot by a police officer in 2015, under the Alabama accomplice law. (Photo: Alabama Department of Corrections)
Though Smith was a minor at the time of the shootout, the adult prosecutor brought him to trial. He was sentenced to 65 years in prison - 30 years for murder, 15 years for burglary and 10 years for theft. His sentence was reduced to 55 years in November when a judge ruled that one of the 10-year sentences could be imposed at the same time as the 15-year sentence.
"The officer shot A’donte, not Lakeith Smith," defender Jennifer Holton said during the Smith trial. “Lakeith was a 15 year old child who was scared to death. He did not take part in the act that caused A’donte’s death. He never shot anyone. "
The other defendants - Jadarien Hardy, Jhavarske Jackson and La'Anthony Washington - accepted opposition agreements. Smith declined a plea deal that would have sentenced him to 25 years in prison.
Two years later, when protests sparked by the police in Minneapolis after George Floyd was murdered, activists focus again on Smith's case.
A Change.org petition calling for justice for Smith and Washington had collected over 430,000 signatures on Monday afternoon.
"Although Lakeith did not take part in the shootout at all, SMITH was held liable for his friend's death under the Alabama Liability Act," YouTube star Nash Grier tweeted on Saturday. “He was brought to trial as an adult and sentenced to 65 years in prison. OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM IS MORE THAN BROKEN. "
"This is disgusting and morally wrong! How is it that the policeman remains unnamed and this CHILD, who didn't even pull the trigger, is convicted ?! “A signer of the petition wrote. "I'm disgusted ..."
Smith's lawyer did not immediately respond to HuffPost's request for comment.
In March Alabama executed Nathaniel Woods, a black man who was convicted under the accomplice law when three police officers were killed in 2004 by another man who was shot.
Democratic leaders are catching up in the Black Lives Matter movement
States have introduced 54 new restrictions on peaceful protests since Ferguson
Trump's presidency is reaping what has sown his white grievance policy
Obama says we should learn "impatience" from young protesters
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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