LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Tuesday, Derrick Small was convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of Jalen Handy, who had stolen his marijuana during a drug deal.
The trial raised questions about when a person can legally use deadly force against another.
Small was charged with first-degree murder because it happened during a drug deal. Calcasieu Assistant D.A. Jacob Johnson says it was the appropriate charge.
“Dope-dealing is inherently a dangerous set of circumstances and so, we wanted the community to be aware of this is something that happened in a drug deal when somebody meant to kill the victim,” Johnson said.
The defense argued Small shot Handy in self-defense and that Small feared for his life; arguing a justifiable homicide.
However, Calcasieu Assistant D.A. Charles Robinson says Handy was running away.
“Jalen Handy did not deserve to die," Robinson said. “He was unarmed and running in the other direction. He was over 60 feet from the defendant when he was gunned down.”
Robinson said Small had alternatives to killing Handy.
“Derrick had endless alternatives. He could have sat there and done absolutely nothing. He could have driven away. He could have done anything other than what he did and no one would have been hurt,” Robinson said.
They agree the circumstances in no way fit self-defense or justifiable homicide.
"If a person is in reasonable fear of losing life and limb, they can take action to protect themselves. That does not apply when someone is running from a scene; even if that person is running from theft of marijuana. You don’t get to kill someone because they committed theft of your marijuana,” Johnson said.
Johnson believes Small basically wanted revenge.
"I think that the defendant felt played, I think the defendant felt insulted and maybe he wanted to protect his dope dealing name, I don't know. But what I do know beyond a reasonable doubt and what the jury knows beyond a reasonable doubt is that there was no justification for killing Jalen Handy," he said.
Small testified he had been a military police officer and received firearms training.