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Alexandria murder conviction changed to manslaughter

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An Alexandria jury two years ago recommended Rashad Adkins spend 42 years behind bars for murder. But after the Virginia Supreme Court ruled detectives violated his rights, the 25-year-old will instead serve eight years in prison for manslaughter.

Adkins fatally shot Shakkan Elliot-Tibbs, 22, in a public housing complex in Alexandria in July 2015. The shooting came after a physical fight that started when some friends of Elliot-Tibbs allegedly stole $20 from Adkins’s intellectually disabled cousin.

“Defending Mr. Adkins was a four-year team effort involving six attorneys and an investigator,” defense attorney Chris Leibig said. “After many twists and turns, the case ended up with the right result.”

When he was arrested in 2015 in Fairfax County with a gun in his backpack, Adkins said little and told police officers, “I don’t have no more to say to you.” They left the room. But after a brief interlude, Alexandria officers came in and questioned Adkins about Elliot-Tibbs’s death. They suggested he was defending himself against a physical assault started by Elliot-Tibbs; Adkins denied anyone had put hands on him.

“Adkins had invoked his right to remain silent,” the state Supreme Court ruled. “The context does not reasonably support any other interpretation.”

Because Adkins’s subsequent comments were used at trial to undermine his self-defense claim, the court ruled that the error irreparably tainted his conviction.

“The adverse ruling of the Virginia Supreme Court left the Commonwealth’s case significantly weaker than prior to the first trial,” Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter said. “We therefore reached an agreement with the defense whereby the defendant accepted responsibility by pleading guilty and accepted a penitentiary sentence.”

Adkins pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge Monday in Alexandria Circuit Court.

Joseph King, another of the appellate lawyers, said that while “we were happy to represent Mr. Adkins on appeal,” it cost more to do so than the $3,000 paid by the state.

“If we didn’t have a firm that had resources to support this, we couldn’t have done it,” King said.

While the 2015 jury declined to convict Adkins of first-degree murder, it gave him the highest possible term for second-degree murder and use of a firearm.

Few witnesses were willing to tell authorities what they saw. One teenager clammed up in the middle of his testimony at trial after receiving several notifications on his cellphone. Phones are no longer allowed for the public in Alexandria Circuit Court.

Adkins has spent more than a year at Red Onion, a supermax prison in southwest Virginia.

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