SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – Sentencing has been postponed for 35 year old Satonia Small, the Shreveport mother facing a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for her conviction on second-degree murder in the death of her six year old daughter.
But with the hire of Shreveport defense attorney Elton Richey, Small's family hopes to win her a reprieve in the form of a lesser sentence, if not a whole new trial.
Small left her two young children home alone in her apartment in January 2008 to go out with friends. A fire broke out and Sha'ja'berne Small died of smoke inhalation. Her seven year old brother was injured, but managed to escape.
The law provides for second degree murder charges in cases of cruelty to juveniles resulting in a child's death. At trial, prosecutors pointed to a 2007 conviction on criminal abandonment charges for leaving the children outside in 28-degree weather, establishing a pattern of cruelty. Family members have questioned whether Small was properly represented at trial, and whether justice would be served with a life sentence.
In Caddo District Court Wednesday morning, public defender Mary Ellen Halterman, who represented Small at trial, stepped aside. Richey told Judge Mike Pittman he is enrolling as Small's new counsel, asking for 90 days to prepare motions on her behalf. Judge Pittman granted a delay of just 12 days.