Legal expert reacts to guilty plea in Huguenot graduation shooting trial

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — 20-year-old Amari Pollard will spend 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to the murder of Shawn Jackson after his high school graduation on July 6, 2023 in Richmond.

The guilty plea on Thursday was an unexpected end to the trail, which began on Monday. 8News legal expert Russ Stone said the judge’s response for Pollard’s self-defense claim may have been the cause.

“If you’re going through the trial, thinking you’re going to be able to convince the jury that this was a self-defense shooting, and then the judge kind of shot that down. That, I suspect, is one of the reasons they ultimately reached an agreement,” said Stone.

Pollard testified on Thursday that he shot Jackson because he was in fear for his life, but the judge ruled the evidence didn’t support that. Pollard was ultimately sentenced to 43 years with 18 years suspended — meaning he’ll serve 25 years in prison.

Richmond City School Board member Jonathan Young said that he believes justice was served, but that there’s still a long road ahead.

“I pray that, if anything, that we can turn a page at the high school and start anew. Because we have 1,400 amazing, incredible young people there at Huguenot and they all deserve, day in, day out, to report to school and not have to be concerned for their safety and welfare.”

While there was a conclusion in the trial for the death of Jackson, no one has yet been prosecuted for the death of his stepfather, Lorenzo Smith, or for any of the five people who were injured that day.

For 8News’ full coverage of the Huguenot High School graduation shooting, the subsequent investigation and the trail, click here.

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