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Susan Smith Appeal Rejected by Judge

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Susan Smith Appeal Rejected by Judge

Post  Guest on Wed 18 Aug - 13:03

Susan Smith Appeal Rejected by Judge

March 1st 2010

A judge has rejected a motion for a new trial for Susan Smith, the woman who drowned her two sons almost 16 years ago.

Chief Administrative Judge Lee Alford of the 16th Judicial Circuit issued the opinion after reviewing the facts for several weeks.

Smith killed her two sons, Michael and Alex, by drowning them in John D. Long Lake in Union County in 1994. She then told law enforcement that a man had kidnapped her children from her car. Investigators later proved that claim was false, and the children were recovered.

She was found guilty in 1995.

Smith had filed a handwritten request for a new trial on the grounds that her Fifth Amendment rights were violated, and because she said she wasn't properly represented by her attorneys.

Alford dismissed the Fifth Amendment claims, and said that Smith had waived her right to an appeal.

She has 20 days to appeal the ruling. She remains behind bars at Leath Correctional Institution in Greenwood.



Susan Smith - Profile of a Child Killer


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Re: Susan Smith Appeal Rejected by Judge

Post  Guest on Wed 18 Aug - 13:04

November 14, 1994

Death and Deceit

Forget that you once loved them, that of your body they were born. For one short day, forget your children; afterwards, weep. Though you kill them, they were your beloved sons.

-- Euripides, Medea

No town said sadder prayers than Union, South Carolina, last week. The easiest prayers were for the father who had lost his sons; rather harder for the mother who had surely lost her mind. But the hardest of all were for the boys. Dear God, let them have been asleep that night, snuggled in the safety of their car seats. That way they wouldn't have felt the rough gravel road through the forest, or seen the edge of the dark lake. They would not have wondered why their mother got out of the car, leaving the doors and windows shut tight, why the car was still moving forward with no one behind the wheel. It was too much to hope that they never felt the water, or the sinking, or the terror of dying together, alone.

The divers finally found the bodies last week, nearly 100 feet out from a boat ramp in the man-made lake stocked full of catfish. The children were still securely strapped in; with the windows shut, the car had floated slowly out into the lake as it filled with water, then flipped over and settled into the silt. When the search team finally dragged the car out, veteran diver Steve Morrow stood on the banks and cried. "There's no way to be thick skinned about something like this," he says. "When it's an accidental death you can deal with it a little better, but knowing that someone could deliberately . . ." his voice trails off. When he got home that night, Morrow says, he crawled into bed with his little boy. "I just had to hold him for awhile."

They had searched the lake before, but in the murky water it would have been impossible to find the car unless they knew just where to look -- as they did by Thursday afternoon. Sweet Susan Smith -- the mother America had come to know over breakfast, crying for the return of her stolen children on the Today show, playing with them at a videotaped birthday party, pleading that the kidnapper feed them and care for them -- had confessed to killing them.

! God made them cute so we wouldn't kill them, goes the old joke. All anyone wanted to know was how she could possibly have done it. What person watching -- and parents from the President on down couldn't turn their eyes away -- had not felt the sleep-depriving, soul-splitting pressures of parenting and worried about their own capacity for violence? But this was not the typical child murder, the experts rushed to explain, not an outburst of uncontrollable rage turned accidentally fatal. This was cold calculation. Parents who began the week trying to explain to their own children about Stranger Danger ended it having to explain something far scarier.

The statistics promise that kidnapped children are a hundred times more likely to be taken by friends, loved ones, parents, than by strangers. And yet, as the search for Michael and Alex Smith continued, it required too complex a calculation to suspend pity and suspect a plot. Even when wormy doubts poked through -- Could this possibly all be a hoax? -- millions watched Susan Smith's sorrowful pleas and put suspicions aside.

"I can't even describe what I'm going through. It just aches so bad. I can't sleep. I can't eat. I can't do anything but think about them."

The story began with an emergency call to 911. "There's a lady who came to our door," the caller told the operator. "Some guy jumped into her car with her two kids in it, and he took off."

"And he's got the kids?"

"Yes Ma'am, and her car. She's real hysterical, and I just thought I need to call the law and get 'em down here."

These things don't happen in Union, a 200-year-old mill town with a huge sign on Main Street welcoming visitors to THE CITY OF HOSPITALITY. There had been two murders in the past two years, both within families. People don't lock their doors, and it's O.K. to talk to strangers. "It's a boringly God- fearing, law-abiding place," says Mark Johnson, 35, who runs veterans' affairs for the county. "The worst thing that happens here is like the song: Bubba shot the jukebox 'cause he didn't like the song."

The Smiths were well-known and well-liked: "good people from good stock," Johnson says. Susan was an honor student, member of the Math Club, voted the "friendliest female" for the class of '89 at Union High. She met David while working at the local Winn-Dixie supermarket; they married in 1991 and had Michael seven months later. The marriage fell apart just one year after ; the birth of their second child, and the divorce papers were filed in September, though everyone said the split was amicable. Out of his $21,700 or so annual salary at the supermarket, David pledged $115 a week in child support. For awhile after they separated, he even came over to mow the lawn and play with the kids.

But Smith's image wrinkled a bit as rumors surfaced of a troubled past; of the cruel teasing from other children after her father shot himself through the head when she was eight years old; of a hasty marriage to a man less achieving and ultimately unfaithful; of her own suicide attempts, including one in high school that kept her out of class for a month; and most recently of money problems growing all the more pressing for a single parent. She took home $1,096 a month, but her $344 mortgage, $300 in daycare -- plus car payments, utilities and other costs -- added up to $1,284. She still owed money to the doctor who delivered Alex 14 months ago.

As the autumn unfolded, the pressures grew; she began a romance with Tom Findlay, the handsome, personable son of the owner of Conso Products, the textile plant where Smith worked as a secretary. But a week before the boys disappeared, he wrote her a letter on his computer. He wanted to be with her, he said, but he was not ready for the responsibilities of a ready-made family. After news spread of the crime, Findlay printed out a copy of the letter and gave it to police. "At no time," he said in a statement last week, "did I suggest to Ms. Smith that her children were the only obstacle in any potential relationship with her."

When she finally confessed, Smith reportedly explained to police how she had been overwhelmed by worries about "money, her failed marriage and a series of other romantic relationships in disarray." "Something had to be going on there," says Lewis Jeter III, the former special-education teacher at Union High School who supervised Susan in the Junior Civitan Club, which helped disabled kids. He remembers "a sweet, loving young lady" who seemed to adore children. "The woman that killed her children is not the same young woman I knew in high school," he insists. "Someone close to her should have noticed, and it bothers me that no one did."

"I think what's kept me going more than anything is the Lord. I pray to Him every day to give me the strength to make it through the day."

Susan's story of October 25 rocked Union. She explained to police that she was on her way to visit a friend at about 9:00 when she stopped at a red light and encountered her attacker. A black man in his twenties, wearing a plaid jacket and jeans and waving a gun, out of breath as though he had been running, jumped into the passenger seat: "Shut up and drive or I'll kill you!" Ten miles out of town he ordered her out of the car, a 1990 burgundy Mazda Protege. She told police that she begged him to let her take the kids. "I don't have time," he said, "but I won't hurt them." And he drove off, leaving her screaming in the road: "I love y'all!"

The town reared up in horror. Police, state troopers, FBI agents and thousands of volunteers fanned out through the 515-sq.-mi. county, searching for the car, the kids, any clue at all. Helicopters with heat-seeking devices combed through the Uwharrie National Forest after someone reported hearing a child crying in the forest.

The townspeople welcomed the national press with coffee and doughnuts and open homes, hoping that all the attention might help find the kids quickly. Once the story went national, police expected the thief to dump the car -- and the children -- in a hospital parking lot, or at a convenience store, or a shopping mall. But still there was no sign. And everywhere parents suffered, as the temperature fell below freezing two nights of the first five.

"I was running around my house yesterday morning all excited; I really thought they had found one of my children. And when I got to the courthouse and found that the lead had disintegrated, I was very devastated."

Sheriff Howard Wells, unfazed by his sudden fame, directed his team along parallel tracks. With the help of a new FBI computer system, authorities pursued every lead that came in, from psychics and crackpots, from well- meaning citizens as far away as the West Coast. A motel desk clerk in Seattle told police that a man had driven up in a car with South Carolina plates and dropped off a little boy. Police hoped it might be Alex. But it turned out to be someone else's child.

Susan and David were too distraught to appear in public for the first few days; David's father and many other family members moved in with Susan to lend her comfort, and a relative served as spokesman. But eventually the parents faced the cameras to enlist their power. "Michael, Alex, we love you very much and we're not giving up on you," David said. "Hang on and be strong."

But all along officials pursued the other track as well, the grim road most likely to lead police to missing kids. There were all sorts of ugly, irksome questions about Smith's story. No crimes had been reported in the area that night -- so why would a suspect be fleeing? If he needed a car to make a getaway, why take the kids? She said he had approached her at a stoplight, with no one else around; but that particular light required another auto approaching the intersection to turn it red. Above all, where was the damn car?

"I don't think any parent could love their children any more than I do, and I would never even think about doing anything that would harm them. It's very painful to have the finger pointed at you when it's your children involved."

The case was too clean, too clueless. "It would be very hard to be lost in this county for a long period of time," Sheriff Wells observed. "This is a large hunting area. We've never looked for a car this long here that we haven't found." The sheriff, however, did not dwell publicly on his suspicions. For one thing, parents who turn violent toward their children often turn suicidal too -- in which case the mystery might never be solved.

Then there was Smith's behavior. What would be a "normal" reaction for a parent faced with the loss of her children? She might have found a natural ally in Marc Klaas, who since the kidnapping and murder of his daughter Polly Klass in October 1993 has devoted himself to helping parents in a similar plight. He flew to South Carolina with Jeanne Boylan, a cognitive artist with a background in psychology who has produced remarkably accurate suspect sketches in the Klaas case and many others. The sketch of the carjacker was so generic as to be useless, and Boylan thought she might be able to help pierce through Smith's trauma and retrieve a more vivid image of the abductor.

For five frustrating days Klaas and Boylan were turned away from the house. Finally, Boylan says, "I had to admit I was a threat to her, because here's a person who had been flown in to produce information that you do not have. She knew my background was psychology; she must have felt it would be very difficult to put one over on me. I'm the last person she wanted to see on that driveway."

Smith's story began to crumble even before she failed the first of two lie- detector tests. Police continued to give her the benefit of the doubt, at least in public; extreme stress or medication could make the test results inconclusive, they noted. But some neighbors, too, began to wonder. Catherine Frost lives across the street from Smith's tidy little brick house. She heard about the crime on the police scanner she keeps in her bedroom. She supported Smith in the crisis, but the story nagged at her. "Ain't no carjacker going to put a lady out in front of a home," says Frost. "They would take them out in the country where there's no telephones." Frost finally called the FBI and told them about the male friend who had recently been visiting Smith.

Last Wednesday police called Smith in for questioning again. That same day a team searched her home, dusting for fingerprints, exploring a crawl space in the basement and removing several bags from the house. It was all finally too much: Smith broke down under questioning and told police where the boys' bodies could be found. Following her directions, divers returned to John D. Long Lake; around 4:15 on Thursday afternoon, they pulled Smith's car from the mud. "Even after she said it, I just couldn't believe the children would be there in the car, no way," says diver Francis Mitchum. An hour later a helicopter brought Sheriff Wells to the Smith house. Then, at 6:45 p.m., in front of the Union County Courthouse, he confirmed the unthinkable. "Two bodies were found in the vehicle's backseat," he said. "Mrs. Smith has been arrested, and will be charged with two counts of murder."

"I think it takes a very sick and emotionally unstable person to be able to take two beautiful children like that, to be able to keep them from their parents."

Some people wondered if Smith had created the crisis in order to reunite with her husband or just to win attention. But others suggested that she had never anticipated the furor. "Whatever led her to do this, in her own mind, I don't think she ever thought it would be this big," said one woman in town. "She didn't realize that people would respond the way they did with such loving and caring."

The reaction was intense and furious, as people sadly removed the yellow ribbons outside their homes and replaced them with black ones. "She's slime, just slime," said a woman at the Greenville/Spartan burg Airport upon hearing the news. All through the area and around the country, people asked again and again: Why did she have to go and kill them? "How does someone do what she , did and then think they can get away with it?" asked Kathy Richardson, whose daughter worked with Smith at Conso. "I would have taken those babies in a heartbeat."

There was particular bitterness among Union's African Americans, many of whom had joined in the search for the boys. "This whole incident with her labeling a black man as the criminal sends a message of the black male as savage and barbarian," said McElroy Hughes, a retired minister and local president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. But "you have to give Sheriff Wells credit for the discreet and appropriate way he handled this," said the Rev. A.L. Brackett, pastor of the all-black, 400-member St. Paul Baptist Church in downtown Union. "He didn't drag in all the black men who could have fit the description."

Out of the anger came ugliness. There were those like Richardson who advocated "stringing her up right in the middle of the courthouse." Worried about Smith's safety, SWAT team members staked out the courthouse roof, scanning the crowd below as helicopters circled overhead.

After her arraignment Friday, Smith left the courthouse with her head covered against the crowd's jeers and hisses. Prosecutor Thomas Pope said he was still weighing whether he would seek the death penalty. Asked about her state of mind, her lawyer, David Bruck -- a specialist in capital cases -- took a long pause before answering, then said somberly, "She is heartbroken." Her family, says one friend, was "living hour by hour."

Smith was placed under a suicide watch at the Women's Correctional Center near Columbia, allowed only her glasses, Bible, blanket and pillow. A camera watches her 24 hours a day, and guards regularly pass by her 6-ft. by 18-ft. cell. Down by the lake, the first crosses appeared, and flowers, an improvised memorial for the boys everyone wanted so desperately to find, anyplace else but there.


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