Jamal D. Smith was 17 years old when he shot a man in the head during a drug deal. In 2003, prosecutors had enough information to charge Smith with attempted first-degree murder.
Then, 17 months later, Smith faced another first-degree murder charge when investigators tied him to a break-in at the victim’s apartment. Smith and his girlfriend, Felicia M. Dixon, had conspired to have the victim killed before the trial started.
A jury found Smith guilty in 2004 of both attempted murder charges. He was sentenced to 58 years, four months in prison.
However, the state Court of Appeals found earlier this year that the lengthy sentence violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. The court overturned the sentence, and sent the case back to Thurston County Superior Court for resentencing.
Smith had been serving his sentence in the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, but was transported Nov. 3 to the Thurston County jail. He will remain at the jail until his resentencing.
A new sentencing hearing hasn’t yet been scheduled.
According to a 2004 article in The Olympian, Smith and three other men met the victim on Martin Way on Feb. 15, 2003, to purchase marijuana. Smith pulled out a 9 mm gun and shot the victim in the head. The victim survived, but required extensive surgery to repair his jaw.
“It’s amazing to me that this wasn’t a homicide,” said former Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jack Jones in 2004.
In July 2004, the victim reported a break-in at his Thurston County apartment. The break-in was traced back to Dixon and Smith through a series of jail phone calls during which Smith told Dixon that prosecutors wouldn’t have a case without the victim.
Dixon, then 18, was found guilty in 2004 of attempted first-degree murder and residential burglary. She was sentenced to 18 years, four months in prison. She is serving her sentence at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Purdy.
Smith’s resentencing is part of a wave of similar cases following the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama. The court found that mandatory life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders was unconstitutional, amounting to cruel and unusual punishment.
The state Court of Appeals used the same argument when it ordered that Brian Bassett, who at age 16 murdered his family in their McCleary home, get a new sentence. Bassett was sentenced in 1996 to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The court overturned that sentence earlier this year, but the case is expected to go before the state Supreme Court.
Smith wasn’t sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but the state Court of Appeals wrote in its decision regarding Smith that the case “announced a significant change in the law concerning the sentencing of juvenile offenders.”