Pamela Smart denied chance at freedom in husband’s death
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Pamela Smart, a former high school employee convicted of recruiting her teenage lover to kill her husband, was denied a sentence reduction hearing Wednesday nearly 30 years after a sensational trial that inspired books and a Nicole Kidman movie.
Smart was 22 and working as a high school media coordinator when she began an affair with the 15-year-old student who shot and killed her husband, Gregory Smart, in 1990. Though she denied knowledge of the plot, she was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and other crimes and sentenced to life without parole. William Flynn, and three other teens, cooperated with prosecutors, served shorter sentences and have been released.
Smart’s request was rejected Wednesday in a 4-0 vote with one abstention. It’s the second time Smart had asked a state council for a hearing. Now, 51, she has exhausted all her judicial appeal options.
Executive Councilor Mike Cryans said he didn’t feel “comfortable going either way.” Councilor Andru Volinsky said as he wrestled with wanting to both honor Gregory Smart and consider Pamela Smart’s circumstances, one line among than 1,000 pages of documents helped him make up his mind.
“Although I never wanted nor asked Mr. Flynn to murder Gregg, I will forever carry the blame and guilt,” he read from Smart’s petition.
“I think that sentence is at great odds in the evidence in the case and causes me concern,” Volinsky said.
The trial was a media circus and one of the first high-profile cases about a sexual affair between a school staff member and a student. Joyce Maynard wrote “To Die For” in 1992, drawing from the Smart case. That inspired a 1995 film of the same name starring Nicole Kidman and Joaquin Phoenix.
Flynn testified that Smart told him she needed her husband killed because she feared she would lose everything if they divorced. He said she threatened to break up with him if he didn’t kill Gregory Smart.
Pamela Smart’s spokeswoman, Eleanor Pam, said the council’s vote “avoided and voided fairness, objectivity and compassion.”
“Political cowardice is on full display in this state as usual by politicians primarily concerned about retaining or advancing their political careers,” she said in a statement.
Smart’s mother, Linda Wojas, told reporters she was heartbroken by what she called a “cruel” outcome for her daughter.
“On Aug. 1 she will have spent 29 years in prison for a crime committed by others. She has been in prison longer than she has been free,” she said.
In addition to earning two master’s degrees in a Bedford Hills, New York, prison, Smart has tutored fellow inmates and works as an AIDS educator and president of an inmate liaison committee. Many letters of support from inmates, supervisors, celebrities and activist Gloria Steinem are included in her application.
Smart’s appeal notes that other states have commuted life-without-parole sentences for cases in which the defendant was a bystander, or played an “ancillary role,” like a getaway driver or lookout.
The attorney general’s office opposed Smart’s request. Associate Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said that Smart “has never accepted full responsibility” for the crimes she committed: being an accomplice to first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with a witness.
What happens in other states is not binding in New Hampshire, Strelzin said, and disputed the idea that Smart played only an ancillary role in her husband’s murder.
Smart’s mother told Strelzin on Wednesday that she not angry with him but believes he is wrong.
“We came here seeking justice and we did not get it,” she said. “I hope God lets me live long enough to prove her innocence.”
Flynn, who served nearly 25 years in prison, declined to comment on Smart’s request, according to his lawyer. Gregory Smart’s family told The Associated Press that Pamela Smart is where she belongs.
Associated Press Writer Kathy McCormack contributed to this report.