A convict who was mistakenly released early from prison has been charged with murdering a teenager.
Jeremiah Smith was charged with first-degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Caesar Medina in Spokane, Washington on May 26, 2015. Police tried to resuscitate Medina, who ultimately died from gunshot wounds to the chest and neck.
Smith had been serving time for burglary, assault, and robbery charges at Spokane County Jail. Although he was due to be released from Spokane County Jail on Aug. 10, 2015, due to a database error, he was released on May 14, less than two weeks before he murdered Medina.
According to KXLY, Smith was imprisoned for more than four years before his erroneous release. The Department of Corrections confirmed that Aug. 10 was the correct release date.
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"I'm heartsick that this tragedy occurred at all, much less during the time in which Jeremiah Smith should have been incarcerated," said Department of Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke, reported Reuters.
According to Washington state officials, due to errors in calculating sentences, up to 3,200 inmates may have been accidentally released ahead of time from state prisons since 2002. Approximately 3 percent of all releases were granted unwarranted credit, which has reportedly led to the errors in the shortened sentences.
Authorities in Washington State originally learned of the issue in 2012, but have failed to correct it. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered officials stop all releases for prisoners with heightened sentences until a manual calculation ensures that the inmate will be released at the proper time.
Smith is now facing charges of murder, assault with a deadly weapon, armed robbery, intimidating a witness, and unlawful possession of a firearm. Tracy Scott Collins, Smith’s defense attorney, stated that he was concerned that Smith’s trial would be hindered by, "him being identified with this group of inmates released early by the state."
Medina’s death is the second murder blamed on an accidental early release. In November 2015, Robert Jackson, who was released on Aug. 10 instead of Dec. 6, was charged with vehicular homicide.