CONCORD, NH (AP) — The New Hampshire Superior Court on Wednesday rejected the latest attempt to commute the sentence of Pamela Smart, who is serving a life sentence for conspiring to kill her husband with her teenage lover in 1990.
Smart, 55, was 22 and working as a high school media coordinator when she began an affair with a 15-year-old student who later shot and killed her husband, Gregory Smart. Although he denied knowledge of the plot, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and other crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment.
After exhausting his legal appeal options, Smart asked the state board for a sentence reduction hearing last year. The five-member executive board, which approves state contracts and makes appointments to courts and state agencies, rejected his request in less than three minutes, prompting him to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
But the court on Wednesday dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction, saying that ordering the council to review what it deemed a “political” question would violate the separation of powers.
“This decision by the New Hampshire Supreme Court is a continuing disappointment that dashes our hopes that Pamela Smart will finally receive a fair trial in the state of New Hampshire,” Smart’s spokeswoman, Eleanor Pam, said in an email.
The state attorney general’s office opposed Smart’s request — the board has denied three since 2005 — saying he never took full responsibility for the crimes.
Smart, who has earned two master’s degrees behind bars, mentored fellow inmates, ordained as a minister and serves on the Prisoner Liaison Committee, said in his latest plea that he is remorseful and rehabilitated. He apologized to Gregory Smart’s family, but relatives say he did not take full responsibility.
Smart’s longtime attorney, Mark Sist, argued that the board simply didn’t prioritize Smart’s case and instead “took away” his chance at freedom. Sisti said the select board didn’t spend time reviewing Smart’s voluminous petition — which included multiple letters of support from inmates, supervisors and others — or even consider it before denying his request.
Gov. Chris Sununu, who brings the issues before the board, had the opportunity to put the commutation request on the agenda and did so, argued Laura Lombardi, a senior assistant attorney general. According to him, the governor and the council have no requirement to create rules regarding this process.
The trial was a media circus and one of the first high-profile cases involving a sexual relationship between a school employee and a student. Joyce Maynard wrote “To Die For” in 1992 based on Smart’s work. It inspired the 1995 film of the same name, starring Nicole Kidman and Joaquin Phoenix. The killer, William Flynn, and three other teenagers cooperated with prosecutors, served shorter sentences and were released.
In February, several of Smart’s supporters traveled to New Hampshire to hear the court case, wearing pink T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Enough is Enough.”
Kelly Harnett, 41, who was also in court for Smart’s case last month and designed the T-shirts, is a former inmate in Bedford who said he could talk to Smart about the law and that Smart helped him overcome setbacks, both legal and not. personal. According to him, Smart deserved to be heard.
Vanessa Santiago first met Pamela Smart in 2003 as a fellow prison inmate in New York, working with her as a teacher’s aide and participating in an art rehabilitation program. When Santiago was released from New York’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in 2020, he continued to stay in touch with Smart and support his petition.
“Pamela is like an icon in a sense, in the sense that she has life without parole, and when things get tough, you remember Pamela,” Santiago said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Smart can renew the petition with the council every two years.
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