Sentence reduced for man convicted after friend killed by officer

LaKeith Smith's sentence for his felony murder conviction was reduced to 30 years with time served.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 7:48 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2023 at 12:05 PM CDT
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WETUMPKA, Ala. (WSFA) - An Elmore County judge has reduced the sentence for a man convicted of murdering his friend while they were burglarizing homes as teenagers, even though he didn’t pull the trigger.

Court records show LaKeith Smith was 15 years old when he and four friends were burglarizing homes in Millbrook in February 2015. One of those friends, 16-year-old A’Donte Washington, was killed in a shootout with responding law enforcement.

The Millbrook officer who shot Washington was cleared of wrongdoing. The remaining four teens were all charged with felony murder for Washington’s death. This is state law because they were involved in the felony that instigated the police response.

The other three defendants took plea deals. Smith was originally also offered a plea deal of 25 years but decided to take his case to court instead, which led to his conviction and 65-year sentence. It was later reduced to 55 years until Tuesday when Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds re-sentenced Smith, now 24, to 30 years. The new sentence includes the eight years he’s already served.

Smith’s attorney said they are not done with the case.

“What we plan on doing and what we need to do is to appeal the conviction and appeal the sentence. We think they were both done injustice, and so that’s our next step,” said Smith’s defense attorney, Leroy Maxwell Jr. “There’s been a grave miscarriage of justice as far as LaKeith is concerned. He should be home right now. And the fact that he isn’t is a shame.”

19th Judicial Circuit District Attorney C.J. Robinson said Tuesday’s re-sentencing hearing was because Smith had ineffective counsel when he was sentenced previously.

Smith did speak before Judge Reynolds, expressing his regret and saying he did not understand the case law surrounding felony murder during the commission of a crime.

“I am so happy to have the opportunity to speak today. I deeply regret what I did that day,” Smith said, adding that he knows he can not take back his actions but hopes he can share his story with others so they do not make the same mistake he did.

“I did not understand how felony murder rule worked,” Smith said. “I was too young and immature to handle a situation with adult weight. I apologize to this court for the immaturity that I previously displayed.”

However, Robinson believes Smith has not accepted the consequences of his actions.

“I still don’t feel like I heard any kind of acknowledgement or acceptance of the weight of the consequences of his choices. I was hoping to hear that as part of the hearing today, that ‘Yeah, this mitigation may explain my decision-making process. But at the end of the day, I’m ready to man up and say that I pushed that rock off the cliff, and where it ended up rolling, it caused my friend’s death,’” said Robinson.

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