FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) -A suspect in the murder of a 16-year-old outside a Broward County high school in April 2009 has agreed to a plea deal and will testify against the suspected shooter.
Terrance James agreed to plead no contest minutes before jury selection was set to begin in his trial for the murder of Gregory Smith.
The prosecutor said if James testifies truthfully at the trial of suspected shooter Janard Orange, he will be sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Chavante Roberts, Smith’s mother, said James’ decision is bittersweet.
“Twenty-five years is a long time but it won’t bring my baby back,” she said. “But at least he’s manning up and taking responsibility for what he did. Means a lot to me.”
According to the prosecutor, Gregg Rossman, James was the driver the night Smith was robbed and killed after attending a talent show at Boyd Anderson High School.
“It appears from everything we know about the case (James) didn’t have an intention that anybody get hurt that night,” Rossman said. “He did facilitate it — driving the car and participating in a robbery.”
Witnesses told investigators Smith complied with the thieves and begged for his life. Orange is accused of shooting Smith anyway.
“Mr. Orange got out of the car and approached 6 people and allegedly fired shots at one who ran away and fired shots at the victim — Greg Smith and killed him,” Rossman said.
During the hearing, James seemed to vacillate about whether to accept the deal. As he sat with his attorney, James raised a thumb to indicate he wanted to make a deal.
James’ mother wept during the hearing. Surprisingly, it was Chavante Roberts who handed her a tissue to wipe away her tears.
“Us as mothers we have a bond,” Roberts said. “It’s just a motherly thing. My mother’s instinct. I see another mother hurting and I’m hurting and I told her everything’s gonna work out. Just pray.”
Greg Smith was an honor roll student who loved creating music, attending church and being with his family. His mother said she is eagerly awaiting the trial of Orange, possibly in February.
“I have to be strong for Greg,” she told CBS 4’s Carey Codd. “I have to be strong for my son. It’s not about me. It’s about Greg and making sure he gets his justice.”
Once the trial is over, Chanvante Roberts said she is in the process of creating an arts foundation to honor her son’s memory.