Teen declines judge’s final offer to plead guilty in felony murder case

LaKeith Smith during Monday's jury selection process. On Tuesday, he declined the final offer...
LaKeith Smith during Monday's jury selection process. On Tuesday, he declined the final offer for a 25-year plea deal. (Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)
Updated: Mar. 13, 2018 at 6:14 PM CDT
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ELMORE COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - Elmore County Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds offered LaKeith Smith, 19, a final opportunity Tuesday to take a plea deal before the first witnesses were brought to the stand in his felony murder case. Smith again denied taking any plea for 25 years in prison.

Smith is on trial for felony murder, armed burglary first degree, and first and second-degree theft connected to an incident on Feb. 23, 2015. Several of the charges are class "A" felonies which each carry a criminal penalty of up to 99 years in prison.

Smith's co-defendant, A'Donte Washington, fired at Millbrook Police during the commission of an armed burglary. An officer returned fire, killing Washington.

The four remaining defendants, including Smith, were charged with felony murder for the death of Washington.

Assistant District Attorney Kristy Peoples gave opening statements, explaining Smith's charges, and asked the jury to find him guilty. Peoples stated Smith and four other defendants stole a car and burglarized two houses in Millbrook.

A neighbor noticed the defendants pull up in the car and called 911 after spotting one get out and put a gun in his pants. Peoples explained testimony will show that A'Donte Washington pulled a gun on one of the officers who responded to the call, and a shootout ensued.

Peoples said the jury would see the body camera video of the officer who killed Washington.

"You will hear from a neighbor that said it sounded like World War Three," Peoples explained to the jury.

Smith's defense attorney, Jennifer Holton, also spoke to the jury, telling them her client was innocent of felony murder because the police officer who used lethal force was cleared by a grand jury and was justified in his shooting, therefore he was not a participant in the act.

The state's first witness was Millbrook Police Investigator Jason Brosius, who was on the scene and conducted the interview with Smith after his arrest.

The prosecution played the interview from Feb. 23, 2015, where Smith confessed to involvement in the two armed burglaries and running for miles after he saw police at the house.

While Smith wasn't old enough for a driver's license, he admitted to the investigator that he purchased a semi-automatic handgun off the street for $250.

During the recorded interview, Smith went into great detail about the stolen vehicle, how the defendants came to Millbrook to 'hit some licks', or burglarize houses, how they obtained entry into the houses and what they were taking. Brosius said Smith's information that day was consistent with their investigation.

The video showed Brosius telling Smith if he had not been armed, he would already be home - not at the police department. Brosius also explained Smith would be charged for A'Donte Washington's death.

"If you weren't committing a crime, he wouldn't be dead," Brosius could be heard telling Smith in the video.

The State has numerous witnesses to call in this trial, likely include the three other defendants in this case who have all pleaded guilty: Jhavarsky Jackson, Jadarrian Hardy, and Le'Anthony Washington, A'Donte Washington's cousin.

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