CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A lawyer for Pamela Smart, who is serving a life-without-parole sentence for plotting with her teenage lover to kill her husband in 1990, argued Tuesday that a state council “brushed aside” her request for a chance at freedom, and asked New Hampshire’s highest court to order the panel to reconsider it.
Smart’s longtime attorney, Mark Sisti, argued the five-member council did not spend any time poring over Smart’s voluminous petition — which included many letters of support from inmates, supervisors and others — or even discuss it before rejecting her sentence reduction request in less than three minutes in March.
“I’m asking the only place I can go — the only place Pam can go — to say ‘Just Do Your Job,’” Sisti said.
Associate Justice James Bassett asked “And what does that mean? What are we going to say?”
To which Sisti replied: “A meaningful, minimal due process hearing that we even get at the Department of Motor Vehicles.”
Last year was the third time that Smart, who has served over 30 years in prison, had asked the Executive Council for a hearing. Now 55, she has exhausted all of her judicial appeal options and has to go through the council for a sentence change. Previous petitions were rejected in 2005 and in 2019.
Smart 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, 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.
The teen, William Flynn, and three other teens, cooperated with prosecutors, served shorter sentences and have been 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. 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.
The attorney general’s office opposed Smart’s commutation requests, saying she has never accepted full responsibility for the crimes.
Laura Lombardi, senior assistant attorney general, argued Tuesday that Smart “has no protectable constitutional interest in receiving commutation of her sentence” and that the case should not be before the court.
“This is a matter of mercy and grace, held by the executive branch,” she said.
Gov. Chris Sununu had the option of putting the commutation request on the council’s agenda, and did so, she said. She said there is no requirement for the governor and council to create rules regarding the process.
Sisti said a life-without-parole sentence should hitch onto something: hope.
“I’m asking that you give Pam Smart that little inkling, that little crack in the door where she can have hope,” he said.
In addition to earning two master’s degrees in a Bedford Hills, New York, prison, Smart has tutored fellow inmates, has been ordained as a minister and is part of an inmate liaison committee. In her last petition, she said she is remorseful and and has been rehabilitated. She apologized to Gregory Smart’s family.