Discourse / Editorials / May 22, 2013

Thoughts from the Embers: Speak out against Lakeesha Smith plea bargain

EmbersLakeesha Smith may never stand trial for allegedly striking and killing Tundun Lawani ’14 with her car.

Plans to negotiate a plea agreement are currently in the works; if successful, Smith would not come before a judge or jury, nor would Tundun’s family be able to achieve public closure for the ordeal.

Smith deserves to be publicly held accountable for her actions, and we urge the Knox community to fight the plea agreement. If you are passionate about the case, there are things you can do to affect its outcome.

Demanding a harsher sentence for Smith may seem vindictive, but this is hardly the first time that Smith has endangered the safety of others. In 2003, she was arrested in Galesburg for aggravated battery and again in April 2012 for disorderly conduct. She has also been convicted of check fraud, cited twice for driving with a revoked license and put on probation for retail theft.

Clearly, multiple encounters with the legal system have not been enough to deter further reckless, unlawful behavior. And her current charges — reckless homicide (a class 3 felony), two counts of aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of an accident — are her most serious yet.

It is only appropriate that the consequences be more serious as well.

It’s important to note that reaching a plea agreement would not necessarily mean that Smith would not be considered guilty or receive a prison sentence. Yet her sentence would inevitably be on the lower end of the possible 30 years in prison and additional fines that her charges could carry. More importantly, a plea bargain would mean that no trial would take place.

There would be no chance for Tundun’s family and friends to express their feelings before a jury, nor would Smith be made publicly accountable for what she has done. In a case such as this, where recklessness led to the death of a young woman, this is completely unacceptable.

Fortunately, there are things that you can do to lessen the possibility of a plea agreement being reached. Enough phone calls to the Knox County state’s attorney have the potential to influence how he views the plea agreement. Even a quick call can have an impact.

Alternatively, write a letter to the editor at TKS or the Register-Mail. This is a serious matter, and if this case is important to you, you have the responsibility to make your voice heard.

Criminal cases are long, drawn-out processes, and it’s easy to lose track of a case or lose interest as it moves onward. But even though Smith was arrested back in November, the process of ensuring justice is done is just beginning. We should not allow this case to slip by on a plea bargain — not when her actions resulted in the premature death of one of our own. If this matters to you, contact the state’s attorney. Don’t let this case fall by the wayside.

Tags:  Knox County state's attorney Lakeesha Smith plean bargain Register-Mail Tundun Lawani

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