Three decades after she was convicted of recruiting a teenager to kill her husband, Pamela Smart has once again been denied a chance at a sentence reduction.
Smart, now 55, was a high school media coordinator in Hampton, New Hampshire , when she began an affair with a 15-year-old student called William Flynn. Smart was 22 at the time and had married her husband Gregory Smart in 1989.
On 1 May 1990, Pamela Smart came home to find her husband Gregory Smart lying dead in their apartment. She was accused of having plotted with Flynn to orchestrate his killing. Pamela Smart denied those claims, as well as knowledge of the plot, but was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in March 1991. She was given a life sentence without parole.
Flynn and three other teenagers cooperated with the prosecution and served shorter sentences. They have since been released.
Back in 1991, Smart’s trial — one of the first high-profile cases about a sexual affair between a school staff member and a student— drew attention from across the country. The proceedings lasted for 14 days and aired on TV – acccording to The Washington Post , taking precedent over daytime soap operas.
When Smart was convicted, “gasps and sobs could be heard in the courtroom as the verdict was read out, but not from the defendant, who had become the focus of a horrified fascination that gripped most of New England this month,” The Washington Post wrote at the time. “Smart sat still and unflinching, as she [had] throughout the trial.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel , Smart’s mother Linda Wojas asked some of the onlookers in the courtroom, after her daughter’s guilty verdict was announced: “What are you people going to do for entertainment next week?”
Wojas at the time suggested that local pressure to convict Smart might have played a part in the verdict, saying, according to the publication: “You’d have to be up here to understand. The general consensus was: She’s guilty. Now, say I’m sitting on that jury. What happens if I vote to acquit? Don’t tell me I’m not under pressure from the milkman, the guy next door, the 90 per cent of the people who have already convicted her in their minds just by reading about this and talking about it. How do I explain this to the lady I have coffee with?”
Flynn, who shot and killed Gregory Smart, was released in 2015 after being granted parole, The Associated Press reported at the time. He had served almost 25 years behind bars after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. According to WMUR , a local TV station in New Hampshire, Flynn testified during Smart’s trial that she had threatened to leave him if he didn’t kill her husband. In a 2010 interview with WMUR, Smart denied that, stating: “I never wanted him to kill Gregg. I never asked him to. I never insinuated that I wanted him to kill my husband.”
Prior to his release, Flynn had been granted parole upon his first request. “I will always feel terrible about what happened 25 years ago,” he told the parole board, per the AP. “Parole will not change that.”
Last year, Smart, who has exahausted all of her options for an appeal, had asked a state council for a sentence reduction hearing. But the five-member Executive Council, which approves state contracts and appointees to the courts and state agencies, rejected her request in less than three minutes, The Associated Press reported at the time.
Councilor Janet Stevens said back then that she was “absolutely convinced that there’s no evidence or argument” to grant Smart’s petition, per The AP.
During that 2022 attempt, Smart apologised to her husband’s family for the first time, in a recorded statement.
“I offer no excuses for my actions and behavior,” she said. “I’m to blame.”
She added: “I regret that it took me so long to apologize to the Smart family, my own family, and everyone else. But I think that I wasn’t at a place where I was willing to own that or face that,” she said. “I was young and selfish and I wasn’t thinking about the consequences of what I was doing.”
The Executive Council’s denial of Smart’s request in 2022 prompted her most recent appeal to the state Supreme Court.That court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction on Wednesday, saying that ordering the council to reconsider what it deemed a “political” question would violate the separation of powers, according to The Associated Press.
“This ruling by the New Hampshire Supreme Court is a continuing disappointment that devastates our hopes for Pamela Smart finally receiving reasonable due process in the State of New Hampshire,” Smart‘s spokeswoman, Eleanor Pam, told the AP in an email.
Smart‘s longtime attorney, Mark Sisti, argued that the council simply didn’t make Smart‘s case a priority and instead “brushed aside” her chance at freedom. Per The Associated Press, Sisti said the elected council did not spend any time poring over Smart‘s voluminous petition — which included many letters of support from inmates, supervisors and others — or even discuss it before rejecting her request.
Smart can refile a petition with the council every two years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Comments / 0