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Pamela Smart, Featured In First TV Trial, Loses Plea For Release

Pamela Smart, who was convicted of plotting her husband’s murder in the first sensational fully televised trial, which inspired films starring Nicole Kidman and Helen Hunt, lost her bid to have the New Hampshire Supreme Court release her from prison, Courthouse News Service reports. Smart was 22 when her husband was shot and killed in their condominium on May 1, 1990. A jury convicted her, finding that she had seduced a 15-year-old student at the school where she worked and persuaded him to kill her husband to avoid an expensive divorce and collect on a $140,000 life insurance policy. The student, William Flynn, and three friends who assisted in the murder have been released from prison, but Smart was sentenced to life without parole. Smart asked Gov. Chris Sununu to commute her sentence. Even though Smart submitted exhaustive materials suggesting that she had been rehabilitated after 32 years in prison, the governor and the state executive council dismissed the petition after a hearing lasting less than 2 1/2 minutes.


“We submitted … thousands of pages of testimony, of correspondence,” Smart’s lawyer Mark Sisti said Wednesday. “I know none of that was reviewed.” Sisti told the state Supreme Court that this violated due process. The court disagreed, saying in a brief unanimous opinion that Smart “does not have a legally protected interest in obtaining a commutation hearing that would implicate procedural due process rights.” Sisti argued that the governor was obligated to “engage in good faith discussion” of the petition, but the court said Sununu had the right to handle it however he saw fit and the court had no ability to intervene. During her time in prison, Smart has obtained master’s degrees in literature and legal studies and tutored fellow inmates. She won a $23,875 judgment after claiming that a guard sexually assaulted her and forced her to pose for suggestive photos that were published in the National Enquirer in 2003. Smart’s trial was the first murder case to be covered gavel-to-gavel on live television, both on the Court TV network and on a local New Hampshire station that preempted its regular programming. It became a national obsession and was a precursor to later sensational trials such as those of O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony.

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