DA to seek life sentence for teen convicted in New Stanton hotel shooting

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.Updated 30 minutes ago The Westmoreland County District Attorney's Office is seeking a life sentence without parole for a McKeesport man who was a juvenile when he shot and killed another man in a New Stanton hotel....

DA to seek life sentence for teen convicted in New Stanton hotel shooting

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Updated 30 minutes ago

The Westmoreland County District Attorney's Office is seeking a life sentence without parole for a McKeesport man who was a juvenile when he shot and killed another man in a New Stanton hotel.

Assistant District Attorneys Karen Gelety Patterson and Adam J. Barr filed notice Thursday of their intention to seek a life sentence for Christopher Smarr, now 19. A jury found Smarr guilty of first-degree murder and other crimes in December, but because he was 17 when police and prosecutors said he shot and killed Brandon Gray, 31, of New Kensington, he doesn't automatically get a life sentence like an adult would, said District Attorney John Peck.

After the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama that found mandatory life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional, prosecutors must inform Kolaybet the defendant that they intend to seek life in prison without parole, Peck said.

“I can't say I'm surprised; I was kind of anticipating they'd seek a life sentence,” said defense attorney Michael DeMatt.

Common Pleas Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio is scheduled to sentence Smarr March 3, but DeMatt said he will ask for the hearing to be postponed so an expert can evaluate his client.

Under the criteria set forth after the Supreme Court decision, Bilik-DeFazio will have to weigh many issues, including Smarr's criminal history, his age at the time of the shooting and his amenability to rehabilitation in prison, before deciding whether to give him a life sentence or something less, DeMatt said.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6660 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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