CONCORD, N.H. – Pamela Smart is again asking for a chance at freedom nearly three decades after she was sentenced to life in prison without parole for recruiting her teenage lover to kill her husband in New Hampshire, a scandal that inspired a movie starring Nicole Kidman.
Smart, 51, has exhausted her appeal opportunities since she was imprisoned in 1991. She’s petitioned New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and a five-member council that approves government appointments, contracts and pardons to grant her a hearing for parole consideration or reduce her sentence. The council meets Wednesday; it denied a similar request nearly 14 years ago.
Smart, a high school media co-ordinator, was convicted of plotting with student William Flynn to murder Gregory Smart in 1990. She denied knowledge of the plot. Flynn, who was 16 when he shot her husband, co-operated with prosecutors, as did three other youths. They served prison terms and were released.
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. It inspired the Joyce Maynard novel “To Die For,” which, in turn, was made into the movie “To Die For.”
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.
Smart, in a letter to Sununu, called her decision to become involved with Flynn while the two were volunteering for a self-esteem project “the worst mistake of my life.”
In addition to earning two master’s degrees in prison in Bedford Hills, New York, she 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. It also argues there was juror and judicial misconduct during the trial and evidence that Flynn falsely testified. Flynn, who served nearly 25 years in prison, declined to comment on Smart’s request, according to his lawyer.
The attorney general’s office opposes Smart’s appeal and finds her arguments without merit. Associate Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said in the response 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. Rather, she orchestrated it, chose the killer and encouraged him to carry out the crime, he said.
Gregory Smart’s family told The Associated Press that Pamela Smart is where she belongs.
“Knowing that nothing can ever bring Gregg, the true victim in all of this, back to us, justice has been served,” the family said.