In Alabama, Lakeith Smith, now 18, was the subject of a troubling sentencing after declining a 25 year deal in a felony murder case. After being convicted of felony murder, burglary and theft, he was given a 65 year sentence. Smith however did not kill A’Donte Washington, 16. The police shot Washington as one of the men involved in the break ins. The teen surprised many by smirking at the sentence and was reportedly overheard “I don’t have time for this.” It appears however that is the one thing he has an abundance of.
I have always been uneasy with felony murder cases based on the death of a criminal co-conspirator. In this case, Smith and Washington were connected to two break-ins in 2015 with other men. On Feb. 23, 2015, Washington ran toward officers while pointing a .38 caliber revolver. He was shot and killed by the officer. This is different from the classic felony murder case where a culprit is charged for the death of an innocent party. The rationale behind felony murder provisions was that it would give an incentive to co-conspirators to try to avoid violence not only on their own part but by their cohorts. They all bear the consequences if a store owner or home owner dies. The public policy is not as compelling when police shoot one of the felons.
Judge Sibley Reynolds of Alabama’s 19th Judicial Circuit Court gave Smith back to back sentences of 30 years for murder, 15 years for burglary and 10 years each for two theft convictions.