t’s never been in dispute that a Millbrook police officer shot and killed Washington – officer-worn body cameras captured the fatal confrontation. A grand jury declined to charge the officer, finding that the shooting was justified.
Lakeith Smith, when he was 15, in 2015, had gone on a robbery spree with 4 others in Milbrook Alabama.
A neighbour called police when the group went into a home in Millbrook, Alabama, and the responding officers surprised the teenagers as they were coming through the front door.
16-year-old Washington died from the gunshot which went to his neck.
While the policeman who pulled the trigger has been cleared of all charges, Alabama’s accomplice liability laws have found Lakeith guilty for the death.
Smith was charged and found guilty of his friend’s murder. Last week, a judge sentenced him to 65 years in prison. Under Alabama’s accomplice liability law, Smith is considered just as culpable in Washington’s death as if he had pulled the trigger himself.
“It’s sad in my opinion,” says Smith’s defence lawyer, Jennifer Holton. “The cause of death was the officer’s action.”
Because of the law, Lakeith “is legally liable for the behaviour of another who commits a criminal offence if that person aids or abets the first person in committing the offence.”
Lakeith was sentenced 30 years for murder, 15 years for burglary, and 10 years each for two theft convictions, making it 65 years in total.
However, Lakeith’s lawyer, Jennifer Holton, was displeased by the sentencing, saying:
The officer shot A’Donte, not Lakeith Smith. 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 Scott Lemieux, a lecturer in the department of political science at the University of Washington, is that Smith went forward to trial instead of pleading guilty.
He says. “The risk of going to trial is so extreme.”
Smith decided to take that risk, turning down a 25-year plea deal, and was found guilty by a jury. The other three surviving suspects have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Randall Houston, the district attorney who prosecuted Smith, says he felt the charges and the punishment were appropriate.
“If you’re gonna bring a gun and commit a crime and somebody dies, there’s consequences in Alabama – it’s felony-murder,” Randall Houston said”.