It was a crime that devastated a small South Carolina town
and horrified a nation. Susan Smith
had confessed to doing the unthinkable,
killing her two young sons by strapping
them in their car seats and rolling
the car into the John D. Long Lake.
Smith appeared in
a Union, South Carolina court in January,
where her lawyer, David Bruck, said
Smith would not enter a plea in the
case. A plea of not guilty was then
entered on her behalf.
led by 32-year old Tommy Pope, announced
it would seek the death penalty for
Smith. As her trial began in July,
the facts of the crime were never
in doubt, but the prosecution and
defense presented vastly different
images of Smith to the jury.
to present Smith as a cold-blooded
killer. They described her as a woman
who drowned her three-year-old son
Michael and 14 month-old son Alex
to win the affections of a man with
whom she had been having an affair.
That man, Tom Findlay, took the stand
and read a letter he had written to
Smith breaking off their relationship.
Findlay wrote, "But like I told you
before, there are some things about
you that aren't suited to me, and
yes, I am speaking about your children."
The defense, on the
other hand, painted a picture of a
deeply disturbed and depressed young
woman who had suffered from sexual
molestation at the hands of her stepfather.
After five days of
testimony, and with Smith's confession
virtually assuring a guilty verdict,
the jury received the case. It took
the nine man, three woman panel only
two and a half hours to reach a verdict:
guilty on two counts of murder.
Next came the sentencing
phase of the trial, with the jury
to decide whether Smith deserved the
death penalty for her crime. As testimony
began again, prosecutors called the
boys' father, David Smith, to the
stand. He had stood by his estranged
wife for nine days in October 1994,
pleading for the release of his two
sons after she told the world they
had been kidnapped.
But in emotional
testimony, Smith called for his former
wife to be put to death for her crimes.
He tearfully told the jury all his
hopes, dreams and everything he had
planned on for the rest of his life
had ended that day.
the jury a re-enactment of Susan Smith's
Mazda sinking into John D. Long lake.
A camera was mounted on the back seat
so jurors could get a picture of what
the boys saw for the last six minutes
of their lives as the car went down
in the water.
When the defense
began its case in the sentencing phase
of the trial, it again focused on
Susan Smith's troubled past. Jurors
heard of the divorce of her parents
when she was six and her father's
suicide a month later, as well as
Smith's own suicide attempts and sexual
molestation by her stepfather, Beverly
Russell, that later turned into an
Russell himself took
the stand, saying he deserved some
of the blame in the case. He read
from a letter he sent to Smith in
prison, saying "you don't have all
the guilt in this tragedy," adding
that he let her down as a father.
When jurors were
given the case, they again took little
time to reach a verdict. Susan Smith
was sentenced to life in prison. Under
South Carolina law, Smith will be
eligible for parole in 30 years, although
the notorious nature of her crime
makes it unlikely she will ever be
Following the jury's
decision, David Smith, expressed his
disappointment with the sentence.
Forgiving, Smith said, is "something
I guess I'll have to deal with further
down the road." Susan Smith's attorney,
David Bruck, summed up the case as
bad for all, calling it "an awful
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