A Raw, Uncut Opinion on Alabama’s Failure in Lakeith Smith’s Sentencing
Why do big-name Hollywood icons like Rhianna and people on VICE know more about what’s happening in my backyard than I do? Rhianna has been following the story of Lakeith Smith for a while now, and VICE just did a whole series explaining just how messed up this case is. So, why are we not talking about this? We all know about Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Brianna Taylor, hell we even know that Hoover killed EJ, but no one seems to be talking about the injustice that happened right here in Alabama just a few years ago!
I had to hear about the tragic and, for some reason, untold story of Lakeith, a boy born and raised in Alabama, from social media from the Justice for LaKeith Smith campaign. The story of Lakeith is that of a Black teenager whose justice system failed him. If he has any chance of overturning his conviction for a murder that he did not commit, we need to start talking about this case and the upcoming hearing on December 2nd. We need to rally, show some support and let him know that the people of his state know how wrong this is.
Lakeith Smith was a 15-year-old boy from Millbrook, Alabama, when his world was turned upside down. His mistake? Breaking into two vacant homes with four of his friends. It's a decision Lakeith will regret for the rest of his life, but it shouldn’t cost him his life.
A neighbor heard the boys in one of the empty houses and called the cops. The boys were still inside when the police arrived, and this is where things get wild. One of the boys, A’Donte Washington, gets shot and killed by one of the officers. The police officers say A’Donte pointed his gun at him. The camera footage is unclear, meaning this has not and cannot be confirmed. The one undisputed fact? Ballistics report an officer of the law killed A’Dontethat night.
Whether or not A’Donte had a weapon, it's a messed-up situation that led to an officer firing his weapon and killing the 16-year-old boy. All for breaking into a vacant home. The police officer responsible for the murder was cleared of all charges and never publicly named.
After witnessing their friend’s murder, the boys were failed by their justice system time and time again. Especially Lakeith. Despite being the youngest in the group at just 15 years old, the District Attorney decided to try Lakeith as an adult. The decision prevented Lakeith from participating in the many correctional and rehabilitative facilities specifically designed for youth offenders.
Lakeith was barely a teenager who made a stupid decision as we all do at that age. Hell, I know I did some stupid things when I was a teenager. You’re starting to change, trying to figure out who you are and acting out. Everyone goes through it, and we learn from our mistakes. Lakeith being tried as an adult at 15 for breaking into an empty house was a bad call on the DA’s part. He deserved a chance at reformation, not condemnation.
Before trial, each boy was offered a plea deal. Lakeith was the only one to refuse. The deal outlined a 25-year prison sentence in exchange for a guilty plea to the charges of theft, burglary and felony murder – a charge holding him legally responsible for the death of his friend, A’Donte.
After refusing the deal, Lakeith prepared to face the court system. As a kid, he couldn’t afford effective counsel that would cost the average middle-class American an arm and a leg, and his counsel proved ineffective. The counselor missed key details, including testimony from A’Donte’s parents in opposition to Lakeith’simprisonment, testimony from expert witnesses or child psychologists and not providing enough evidence to reduce the charges.
All of these factors resulted in the all-white jury finding Lakeith guilty on all charges. He received consecutive sentences of 15 years for burglary, 10 years for each of the houses broken into, which resulted in the theft of property charges, and an additional 30 years for the felony murder charge, which is a punishment not fit for the crime he committed or his legal responsibility as a 15-year old offender.
If Lakeith had been tried in juvenile court for his charges of burglary and breaking and entering, his sentencing would’ve looked very different. Even at the highest level of punishment, he would’ve gotten some time in juvenile detention, community service, fines, probation and counseling.
In total, Judge Sibley Reynolds of Alabama’s 19th judicial circuit court sentenced Lakeith to 65 years in prison, effectively sentencing the young teenager to a life behind bars. Meanwhile, the police officer responsible for A’Donte’s death will remain anonymous.
The story of Lakeith doesn’t sit right with me. A teenage boy doesn’t deserve a life behind bars. If you feel the same, go ahead and send a letter to the DA. The coalition behind Lakeith already wrote the email, all you need to do is go to the link here (https://p2a.co/msinnzw) and send it.