Philadelphia, PA – The Philadelphia District Attorney has recommended that a man involved in the murder of a retired police officer be re-sentenced and immediately released on parole.
Aaron Smith was 17 years old in December of 1998, when he and a group of armed men stormed into a Philadelphia bar where retired Philadelphia Police Officer Frank King was socializing with friends, WPVI reported.
Although he was unarmed, Officer King attempted to thwart the robbery-in-progress, and was fatally shot during the effort, according to the Fraternal Order of Police.
Smith was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life without parole, but a later Supreme Court ruling declared life sentences for juveniles to be unconstitutional – even in cases of murder.
"Twenty years ago, I sat in a morgue at Einstein Hospital having to identify my father's dead body, and I feel more helpless now than I did back then," Officer King’s son, Ace King, told WPVI.
The news of Smith’s resentencing struck Officer King’s family even harder when they learned that District Attorney Larry Krasner had the option of recommending a sentence but was choosing to recommend immediate parole.
"Do you champion for our side?” King recalled having asked Krasner. “And do you go for 30 years minimum, to life. 30 years minimum. He said he cannot do that."
In a statement, Krasner said he met with King at King’s request to discuss Smith’s resentencing, and that he “appreciated” King’s “interest, questions and input,” WPVI reported.
Krasner said that Smith was the only defendant involved in Officer King’s murder who was a juvenile at the time, and that the other defendants will continue to serve their life sentences in prison.
“The defendant who is being re-sentenced did not fire, provide, or handle the gun used,” Krasner said in the statement which sounds like he's speaking as the convicted killer's defense attorney, according to WPVI. “He did not struggle with Officer King. He did not mastermind the robbery, lead it, or transport the other participants.”
In the statement, Krasner twice pointed out that Officer King’s murder occurred “some 20 years ago,” and noted that juvenile offenders are “less capable of consequential thinking and more capable of rehabilitation” due to their “immature brains.”
Krasner also argued that a recommendation for immediate parole was appropriate due to “the very low level of recidivism for juvenile lifers who have been re-sentenced and are no longer in custody in Pennsylvania.”
Although Krasner’s sentencing recommendation will be heard by the court, Officer King’s family will also have the opportunity to speak during the hearing.
Ultimately, the sentence will be left to the discretion of the judge.
“We're hoping that, in fact, they do keep him another decade or so behind bars because this was brutal," Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby told WPVI. "There was no reason to take a life that night. None whatsoever."
Smith’s re-sentencing is scheduled to take place on Tuesday.
“We're going to definitely be there on Tuesday. Absolutely," King vowed. "My children and his grandchildren that he never got to meet will be there, too."