The facts of this case are disturbing to say the least, and if you tend to be repulsed by criminal law, you might want to stop reading here.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
Steven Smith is scheduled to be executed in Ohio next month. He was convicted of aggravated murder for the death of six month old Autumn Carter.
Smith, dating the baby's mother at the time, attacked and raped the child so violently that she died of her injuries in the middle of the night as her mother slept. The facts seem to show that she was probably suffocated from the weight of his body as well.
Yes, you read that right. This man raped an infant girl, and she died as a result.
Smith laid the unresponsive child next to her mother after he was done. The mother, realizing what he'd done accused him of killing the baby and ran to the neighbors for help.
When his blood alcohol content was measured at 11 a.m. that morning, almost eight hours after he attacked the child, it was still .123.
He claimed from the beginning that he did not intend to kill the child, just rape her. He also claimed that his intoxication was somehow a defense and/or should mitigate the charges.
The prosecution elected to charge him with capital murder, aggravated by rape. He was not charged separately with rape. The jury, left with the only choices to acquit him or find him guilty of the highest capital charge, found him guilty.
He's staging a last minute appeal, asking for mercy from the court, begging not to be put to death - hinging it all on the issue of intent.
The felony murder rule is an interesting piece of legal history. In essence, it says that when a violent crime is committed and someone dies in the process, intent is transferred to the murder even if the defendant did not intend to kill someone. The intent is shifted, implied, imparted.
Traditionally, murder charges require levels of intent and/or premeditation depending on the degree. Manslaughter charges, however, do not. Manslaughter is a legal finding of guilt for the death of someone else, and does not require intent. Manslaughter is punishable by prison time only. In order to get a capital conviction, as Smith did, the defendant must be charged with, and found guilty of aggravated murder.
Smith and his lawyers claim that under Ohio's felony murder rule, because there was no intent, he cannot be guilty of aggravated murder, and should be exempt from the death penalty. When the felony murder rule is applied in Ohio, second degree murder is ordinarily the charge.
Of direct import to the case here, aggravated murder can be charged under Ohio's felony murder rule when a death occurs during the commission of another crime only when the defendant intended for the person to die. Purposeful death is required. (Ohio Revised Code 2903.02(b))
Smith claims he didn't want the baby to die. He's always alleged he didn't intend for her to die. He's always claimed that he didn't have intent for murder. His lawyers have always claimed he can't legally be put to death for killing her under the law he was charged with and found guilty of.
Technically, he is making a sound legal argument, at least under Ohio's interpretation of the felony murder rule.
A sound argument that seems unconscionable and disgusting.
It's hard if not impossible to find a single ounce of sympathy for a man who committed a crime as unspeakable as this one. Time will tell whether the court decides to show him mercy here. He's quickly running out of it.
Tick tock, Mr. Smith.
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