Note: we are republishing this story amid recent reports of a surge in violent crime across America during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
An Ann Arbor, Michigan, teen almost lost his plea deal during his murder trial after smiling during victim impact statements (video below).
Danta Wright was reportedly grinning while the mother of Jordan Klee sobbed during court -- prompting judge David S. Swartz to allow prosecutors to reconsider the plea deal that was previously reached.
"(W)atching you sit there, smile and laugh and shake your head like this was no big deal, I'm very tempted to just say I'm not going to accept this sentence agreement," Swartz stated, MLive reported. "We'll go to trial, and if you're convicted of felony murder, you'll go to prison for the rest of your life. That means you'll die there. That's what I'm tempted to do."
Wright was smiling during victim impact statements made by Klee's mother, grandfather and cousin. The family members spoke directly to Wright and talked about memories they had of Klee.
"This year was supposed to be a year of celebration ... instead it was nightmare," the statement by Klee's mother, Karen -- read by his cousin -- read. "On the nights I manage to sleep, I hear my son scream for me."
When he addressed the courtroom, Wright said simply that he wanted the plea deal and that he loved his family.
David Goldstein, Wright's lawyer, told the judge that the 17-year-old's smiles were the result of fear, as well as behavioral issues and his age.
"At his age, in his condition, he might not be able to express it as well as some other defendants," Goldstein said.
Wright and two other teens pleaded guilty to the death of Klee, whose body was found after the three suspects allegedly attempted to steal drugs, clothes and shoes from him. Wright admitted to shooting Klee while trying to rob him.
Many readers called for the judge to reject the plea deal and throw Wright in prison.
"He should [rot] in jail. Now he'll have a chance to kill someone else," one reader commented on Facebook. "The judge should have overriden the wishes of a grief sticker family for the sake of another victim or victims. That's one of the problems no real consequences for their actions."
"Sorry, but I have no sympathy for this murdering puke," another wrote. "This is becoming far too common throughout the US. Only severe penalties can stop it. This kid should have been sentenced to a maximum term in prison, hopefully only to be released when he is a very old man, or he exists the prison in a body bag."
"Still don't think he was remorseful enough, only trying to keep himself from spending life in prison," another added. "The judge should have gave him life anyway. Cold hearted no matter how you look at it."