Following the conviction of Lakeith Smith, an African American man from Alabama to 55-years imprisonment over the death of his friend, a petition created three days ago calling for the release of the Montgomery resident has topped 100,000 signatures.
The five-year-old case gained national attention in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police.
The 20-year old man is facing 55-years for crimes committed when he was 15. He was convicted of two counts charges of theft, burglary and felony murder after a police officer shot and killed his friend, A’Donte Washington, 16, in 2015 under the state’s accomplice liability law. 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. He 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 at 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.
Despite being a minor when the shooting happened, Smith was tried as an adult. He was originally 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 a year later because of a sentencing technicality when a judge ruled that his 10-year sentence could run concurrently with the 15-year sentence. The law states a person is legally liable for the behavior of another who commits a criminal offense if that person aids or abets the first person in committing the offense. Alabama is one of 46 states that have a similar version of this law.
The other defendants – Montgomery residents Jadarien Hardy, 22; Jhavarske Jackson, 23; and La’Anthony Washington, 22; accepted plea agreements for the charges but Smith declined a plea agreement that would have reduced his sentence to 25 years.
Another petition that was initially created after Smith’s sentencing is regaining momentum with 60,000 signatures. Also, an Instagram post made in 2018 by theshaderoom, an account with about 20 million followers, is now resurfacing. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had about 95,000 reactions.