Defendant found guilty in Kareem Smalls’ murder trial

Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 2:04 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2022 at 5:01 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A jury has found the defendant guilty in a murder trial surrounding the 2020 shooting death of Kareem Smalls.

Dyanta Samuels was found guilty of all eight charges, including malice and felony murder.

Friday’s culmination of the two-week trial was an emotional one, an ended with the judge handing down a life sentence with the possibility of parole plus 21 years for Samuels.

The jury came back into the courtroom around 1:30 p.m. Friday after deliberating for about eight and a half hours between two days with a unanimous verdict of guilty on all counts.

After that verdict was read, the attorneys opted to go right into sentencing, which meant the judge got to hear from family of not only the victim in this case, Smalls, but also an aunt of Samuels.

The now convicted killer had this to say on his own behalf before the judge went on to sentencing.

“I got nothing to do with this man being dead, this man getting killed, or anything whatsoever. I have no motive, I have nothing against Kareem Smalls, nothing at all. Nothing. I have nothing but respect, I respect what he did for the community, I respect what he did for everybody,” Samuels said.

Smalls was well-known in the community for his work feeding local kids. Smalls was also known as Free Lunch Baby.

The family’s reaction

The family had the chance to face him for the last time and say some final words.

“He did not deserve to die like that. We deserve to still have him with us. He deserved to be here to help raise his son,” said Florrie Smalls Washington, Kareem’s aunt.

This is a really, really sad situation. You have two Black men that’s gone, their lives are gone. At least his family can talk to him. We can’t talk to Kareem,” said Ruby Smalls, Kareem’s aunt.

After Dyanta Samuels’ plea for his innocence, the family said it’s a little too late for remorse.

“Yeah, you gon’ cry in the end when you get your sentence done but that should’ve been in the beginning. If that was gonna be a cry out saying I didn’t do anything, I would be crying when they locked me up for that crime...not cry after the fact,” said Kareem’s mother Lavinia Smalls.

Judge Benjamin Karpf acknowledged the tragedy of this whole situation.

“Ladies and gentleman, it’s not easy to have to sit here and pronounce sentence again in another case in our community that is a result of senseless gun violence...senseless in both of these cases. The loss of life in this case is so tragic,” said Judge Karpf.

Samuels’ aunt also tried to appeal to her nephew’s character to get him a lighter sentence.

“I know Dyanta as a person. Dyanta is like a big kid. He likes to laugh. He likes to joke. He likes to eat nothing but sweets. This is the Dyanta I know.”

Kareem’s mother said the verdict and sentence is justice for Kareem.

“After hearing everything and hearing all the jail calls...he pretty much told on himself.”

She said some days are still hard for their family, but they’re taking it one day at a time.