Court asked to allow gunman to withdraw guilty plea in fatal shooting after high school graduation

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — An attorney for a man who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in a 2023 shooting after a Richmond high school graduation has filed a motion seeking to withdraw the guilty plea on the grounds that he failed to accurately inform the accused gunman of his legal options.

Amari Pollard pleaded guilty in February in the June 6 shooting death of 18-year-old Shawn Jackson after the Huguenot High School graduation at the Altria Theater in Richmond. The plea came after Judge W. Reilly Marchant ruled the Pollard’s actions did not meet the legal threshold for a plea of self-defense.

Pollard’s attorney, Jason Anthony, now says he made a mistake when he advised Pollard on how to move forward after Marchant’s ruling.

“In the moment, I failed to inform the client as to what the defense options were, even when (he) asked me directly,” Anthony told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Monday. “I let Mr. Pollard down.”

In the written motion, Anthony said he was “upset by the ruling” and did not answer Pollard’s questions correctly as they considered the plea deal during a brief court recess.

Anthony wrote that the judge failed to “factor in the evidence that was presented,” and he said his ruling to bar a self-defense plea wrongfully removed the decision from the “providence of the jury.”

Several friends of Jackson’s previously had threatened Pollard and did so again the day of the shooting, the motion said. Pollard also claimed that before he opened fire, he had been grabbed and then chased by Jackson and his stepfather, who was also killed in the shooting.

“The trial court clearly made an obvious and observable error in its decision,” the motion says. Anthony said that error, combined with his own missteps, amount to a “miscarriage of justice.”

Pollard was sentenced to 43 years in prison, with 18 years suspended.

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