A man released from prison early due to a coding error has been found guilty of killing a teenager in Spokane during a robbery attempt in 2015.
After the five-day bench trial, Spokane Superior Court Judge John O. Cooney found Jeremiah A. Smith guilty of first-degree murder and burglary Friday, but not guilty on charges of witness tampering and attempted robbery.
Smith had previously been convicted of first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and second-degree assault, and was one of 3,000 inmates released from prison early due to a Washington Department of Corrections coding error. According to a DOC news release, Smith had several months left on his sentence and should have been incarcerated when the victim, 17-year old Ceasar Medina, was killed.
According to court documents, three years ago, witnesses saw two men with guns enter the Northwest Accessories store on Monroe Street just before midnight. Video surveillance showed them pointing guns at Medina. An employee threw a wine bottle at one of the gunmen, later identified as Smith by his probation officer, and he fired on Medina as he was leaving. Medina died after police attempted to save his life.
Since Medina’s death, he and Smith have been subjects of debate over prison reform and oversight in Olympia.
Last year the Washington state Senate passed a bill requiring more gubernatorial oversight for the DOC, as well as a task force to re-examine the state’s sentencing system, but the bill died in the house.
Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane, who sponsored the bill, also led an independent investigation into the sentencing error, calling it the “deadliest management failure in Washington history.” Padden’s investigation placed the blame for the error on Bernie Warner, former head of the DOC, who has since left the department to work for a private corrections company.
According to a Department of Corrections news release, the DOC has implemented technology and management reforms after a report from an investigators Gov. Jay Inslee appointed found “systemic failures of process and management.”
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