Within three months in 2004, teenager Djuan Smith was charged with murdering two men and shooting a third during two Louisville robberies. After prosecutors had problems with evidence, Smith got a good deal, says the Louisville Courier-Journal: a five years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. He will serve out his time in August 2008.
Get arrested for murder in Louisville’s Jefferson County, and the odds are good that you won’t spend more than a few years in prison – if you serve time at all. A Courier-Journal analysis of 71 completed murder cases between 2003 and 2005 shows that the county’s record for prosecuting accused murderers lags far behind the national average. Prosecutors were far more likely to offer murder defendants plea bargains to lesser crimes that result in shorter sentences than in other major urban counties. Among the reasons for the county’s lackluster record: Witnesses, including those who say they fear criminal retaliation or who distrust police, are crippling murder cases by failing to show up at trial. Prosecutors, often faced with problematic cases, are offering plea bargains that result in lighter sentences. Family members of many victims complain in court about how little their loved one’s life is worth. “That is why there are so many murders,” Betty Ross told the court after the man who killed her granddaughter got seven years in prison, “because nothing is being done when they catch them.”