The trial of Susan Smith

In the shadow of the OJ Simpson trial, another high profile trial grabbed public attention in 1995.  The trial of Susan Smith would reveal many shocking secrets about the young woman from South Carolina accused of killing her two young sons.

Smith initially told the police that a black man had taken her children after a carjacking.  She made several emotional pleas on television for the safe return of her boys.

 

But eventually Smith would confess that she let her car roll into a lake with the children inside.  Smith said she planned to commit suicide but jumped out at the last minute.  The car was pulled from the lake and the bodies of three-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex were found still strapped into their car seats.

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Three-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex drowned in John D. Long Lake

Smith was charged with two counts of murder and the prosecution planned to seek the death penalty.  In opening statements, the prosecution portrayed Smith as a cold and cunning killer who wanted to get rid of her children so that she could be with her ex-boyfriend.

But the Defence portrayed Smith’s actions as a bungled suicide attempt by a confused and mentally unwell woman.  They would bring evidence that after her biological father committed suicide when she was six years old Smith had been sexually abused by her step-father over a period of many years.  The defence argued that Smith should be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

The jury took just two and a half hours to find Smith guilty of murder.

 

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Susan Smith buries her face in her hands as the verdict was read

 

After a lengthy sentencing hearing, the jury again took two and half hours to decide that Smith should not receive the death penalty.  She was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison which means Smith will be eligible for parole in 2025.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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