It’s Time to Consider Clemency for Pamela Smart

Guest Editorial by FRANK PAOLO- N.H.Union Leader-July, 2005

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Pamela Smart today.

I’ve never met Pamela Smart. I read a book about her crime many years ago but forgot the title. I haven’t seen the Hollywood film nor the television movie about the murder in which she was involved. All I remember is Ms. Smart was a 21-year old school audio-video specialist who had an affair with a 15-year old male student. Incredibly, these two cooked up a plan to kill her husband who was unfaithful to her. This dumb idea landed the boy, the triggerman, in prison for 40 years. Since Smart did not believe she was guilty, she refused to cop a plea, was found guilty, and received a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

I remember thinking her sentence a little harsh (even Charles Manson has the possibility of parole) but I really forgot about the whole thing for over a decade.

Then, a few months ago, a 21-year old woman friend was released from prison for crimes related to her heroin addiction. She immediately started getting high again. Despite being given many chances by the courts, she just shrugged her shoulders and acted the way 21-year olds often act: arrogant, invincible, and stupid. No one could reach her. No court, no program, no “adult”- seemed to be able to shake her and say, “Hey! You can’t seem to grasp this now – but the decisions you make today could ruin the rest of your life. THINK!”

And that’s when I remembered the Pamela Smart story. I wondered what she would tell my friend after making her own dumb decisions at 21 and then facing the rest of her life in prison. So I sent her a letter explaining the situation. I really didn’t expect a reply. After all, Smart had absolutely nothing to gain by talking with my friend; what did she care?

We received her reply in four days.

I was shocked. Today, Pamela Smart is an educated (she received two college degrees in prison), eloquent, and (most disturbing of all) compassionate woman. In a series of letters, she pleaded with my friend not to throw away her life. She spoke of the degradation of prison and the sweetness of the freedom she misses so much. “Please take your life seriously,” she implored. I later learned this is one of the same messages she repeats as a peer counselor to mentally ill inmates in her prison vocation.

Well, this whole situation began to bother me. Like everyone else, I like to stereo-type prison inmates. I figured if Smart talked to my friend, she’d have a cigarette hanging out of her mouth and she’d snarl (in a Humphrey Bogart voice) “Don’t be a sucker, kid. You’re on the outside. Stay there! Don’t be a doper – there’s no percentage in it.”

But Pamela Smart’s notes were nothing at all like that. They were written by a woman who is now much older, much wiser, and much sadder after having served nearly 15 years in a maximum security prison. She seriously regrets many past decisions and mourns the life she could have lived. She constantly worries about her aging mother and longs for a daughter she’ll never have. And yet, through her heavily medicated depression, she tries to help young women who still have a chance.

“Oh sure,” you might be saying, “nice, but what chance will her murdered husband ever have?” And a few months ago, I would have said exactly the same thing. But when Smart began writing my friend, some annoying words from former governor Mario Cuomo kept popping back into my head.

Cuomo lost his reelection campaign due, in large part, to his stand against capital punishment. A large percentage of New York voters favored the death penalty. I favored the death penalty. But I was troubled when Cuomo calmly asked some simple questions: “In what type of society would you like us to live? A society that seeks revenge? Or a society that sets the highest standards of compassion and civilized behavior?”

I tried not to listen when he said those words but I never forgot them. And the notes from Ms. Smart reminded me of them again and again. Unfortunately, Smart’s words had little effect on my friend. She screwed up again and is now back behind bars. Of course everyone was disappointed but no one was really surprised. 21 year olds make a lot of stupid choices. And I still believe there are many people who should be executed or imprisoned forever.

But today, I do not believe Pamela Smart is one of them.

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13 Responses to “It’s Time to Consider Clemency for Pamela Smart”

  1. I searched Google for doper and I found your blog 🙂 I like your blog, well done!

  2. This is Ridiculous says:

    Conspiring to kill someone in cold blood is not a “stupid mistake.” The criminal system is set up to keep animals like Smart apart from society – so what if she can put together a coherent letter? That doesn’t afford her the right to walk around our civilized society as if she didn’t heinously kill another individual. Sorry I don’t feel sorry for her inability to have a child – perhaps our world is BETTER because this disgusting individual won’t procreate.

  3. Bob Smart says:

    May Pam rot in Hell for the murder she sooo selfishly commited.

  4. Julie Brooks says:

    i don’t know how I feel about Pam Smart, to be honest. I think it is inspirational that she does what she can to assist other inmates, and that she obtained two degrees; all the more power to her. But, at 21 she was an adult, and as such, responsible for her actions. She orchestrated the death of another human being; turning around, feeling remorse, and bettering herself years later do not and should not negate the consequences of her previous actions.

  5. paolo. says:

    Thanks for writing, Julie.

    I still feel ambivalent about her. Is there a “degree” to which you can murder – and for which you should be punished? Certainly mass murderers like we’ve just experienced are, if sane, beyond hope. But what about guys who push computer buttons in Nebraska who know they’ll kill innocent children with drones in Afghanistan – and push them anyway?

    I know it’s for “the war” but does that make them any less guilty?

    When I’m in doubt, I like to err on the side of mercy and forgiveness. I’m not much of a Christian but I think they set some good examples.

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  7. Joe says:

    You need to stay on topic!

  8. Joe says:

    You killed someone in cold blood. I don’t know how you can make excuses. I really pity you. I believe you are a good person but I can’t help thinking about the life you took.

  9. Manon Bénard says:

    As she does not admit her involvement, her sentence should NOT be changed. No parole, in prison for the rest of her life. The proof leaves no doubt: the tapes. Saying that she was talking about “just” having an affair on those tapes is very hypocrite as she mentioned: if you say the truth, X, Y, Z and me are going to the f**ck**g SLAMMER for our entire life. NO DOUBT with that. Having an affair do NOT lead people in jail. Murder, yes!

  10. richard says:

    She’s still arrogant and stupid. She has no sympathy for her actions about what she did. She convinced her teen lover to kill her husband and went ahead and did it. The whole state of NH hates her and her own mother knows she did this and yet she still maintains her innocence. Pamela Smart should known as Pamela Dumb. Smart or Dumb is where she belongs, remember Gregg Smart and his family and what has done to them. Stay in prison and rot in hell you cunt

  11. Mike says:

    In researching this crime, mostly through Steven Sawicki’s book “Teach Me to Kill” (the investigator calling it his “bible” regarding the topic!), it became obvious to me that young Officer Pelatier had it out for Pam with the first interview he had with Cecilia Pierce, believing every word the 15 yr old told him. Then he shared every bit of it with his wife that evening, and she was convinced of Pam’s guilt and put pressure on her young investigator husband to accept it. The train left the station at that point, full steam ahead. Railroaded, obviously! Beyond that, the state’s Attorney General’s office was in on criminal actions to ensure a victory for the prosecution, in such fashion as even the Mafia would have been proud to call them “family.” The “tapes” were such a garbled mess that Mr Smart pulled off his headphones in disgust, exclaiming he couldn’t understand a word of it. A title of a good book might be, “How a Teen From California Hoodwinked the State of New Hampshire, Ever to Live in Their Hearts As a Beloved Murderer.” And Flynn wasn’t even the shooter, Randall was. Dean Smart asked his dad once, “When will it ever end?!” When the truth is finally told, Dean, that Pam had nothing to do with it. That’s when it will end.

  12. Leonard krol says:

    Pamela Smart is so obviously innocent. She did not seduce Patrick Randal to kill her husband. He attacked Gregg for thrills. Flynn raped her and the parole board wished him a happy birthday.
    This is the only conspiracy I know of where the murder victim is not suppose to be there.
    The tapes are poor fakes and do not say anything condemning. The physical evidence at the scene of the crime proves that there was no murder conspiracy. The New York Times bribed a jury member.
    According to the prosecution, Cecelia Pierce did more to kill Gregg Smart than the accuse Pamela from ever doing. Pierce has never spent a night in jail and has lived a life of luxury since the murder.
    This is just the cliff-notes version of the case. Innocent people like Pamela Smart do not belong in prison while Pierce, Lattine, Randall and Flynn should rot there forever.

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