Alabama mom seeks overturning of son’s murder conviction

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 11:02 PM CST
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ELMORE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - It’s been almost five years since LaKeith Smith was sentenced to 65 years for felony murder, armed burglary and theft at the age of 19.

Smith was one of five teens who police say were involved in a crime spree that started in Montgomery and ended with breaking into a Millbrook home and a shootout with police.

Smith’s mother, Brontina Smith, said it has been an emotional roller coaster as she and others have rallied to have his murder conviction overturned.

“In a sense, you have lost a child because you lost a child to the system,” Smith said.

Their issue lies with Alabama’s accomplice liability law which allows a suspect to be charged with murder if someone is killed during the commission of a crime regardless of whether they caused the death.

When the five teens broke into a Millbrook home, suspect A’Donte Washington was fatally shot by a responding Millbrook Police officer after he charged the officer with a gun.   As a result, Smith and three other co-defendants were charged with murder for Washington’s death.

On Friday, Smith appeared before Elmore County Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds in a post-conviction hearing. Smith’s attorney, Leroy Maxwell argued that Smith’s trial attorney failed to present mitigating evidence that could have helped to shorten his sentence.

Ineffective counsel is grounds for seeking a habeas corpus relief, meaning it is possible for the judge to either lessen Smith’s sentence or fully overturn his conviction.

“It was due to a lack of mitigating evidence that clearly exists that was not presented to the judge before passing a sentence,” Robinson said.

Brontina Smith is anxious to see how the judge rules.  She believes he has learned his lesson.

“We’re just sitting by our phones daily hoping that we get the call any day,’ she said.

Smith’s sentence has been upheld by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.  Due to a sentencing technicality with the other counts, the appellate court shaved ten years off his sentence.

Smith was the only defendant who refused to accept a plea agreement in this case.

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