Jerry Jerome Smith has been on Alabama’s death row for nearly six years, but an appeals court has ordered him re-sentenced. Defense attorneys are hoping a recent US Supreme Court decision will save his life.
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals says jurors in the original trial were not allowed to hear evidence that might have convinced them to spare Smith's life. Smith was convicted and sentenced to die in 1998. He was found guilty of killing three people at a home off Montgomery Highway in Dothan. Police said the home on Sturgeon Court was being used as a crack house and the victims were shot during an argument over money and drugs.
Jurors voted 11-to-1 in favor of the death penalty, but last Fall the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ordered Smith re-sentenced. The case involved a Virginia man who was sentenced to die for a double murder. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that executing mentally retarded criminals was cruel and unusual punishment and violated the eighth amendment of the Constitution. Smith’s attorneys will argue their client only has an IQ of 70.
WTVY News 4 Extended Web Coverage on Jerry Jerome Smith
Convicted killer sentenced to die March 19th 1998
A convicted killer was sentenced to die in Dothan today, but not before he issued a public plea for young people to stay away from drugs. Jerry Jerome Smith was convicted last month in one of Dothan’s bloodiest slayings.
Triple murderer Jerry Jerome Smith conferred briefly with his attorneys before entering Judge Lawson Little's courtroom. The Newville man was convicted last month in the shooting deaths of three people at a Dothan crack house. Prosecutors say the October 1996 slayings happened during an argument over drugs and money.
Before he was sentenced, Smith told Judge Little he was ready to accept his punishment, but he wanted the victims' families to know he was sorry and he wanted to tell young people to steer clear of drugs.
Defense attorneys argued Smith might benefit society by speaking out against drugs from a prison cell, but District Attorney Doug Valeska said the convicted killer had a history of violence. Judge Lawson little handed down the death penalty on an 11 to 1 recommendation from the same jury that convicted Smith.
Suspect in triple slaying faces death penalty February 25th 1998
A Houston County Circuit Court jury today recommended the death penalty for a Henry County man on trial for capital murder in a triple slaying. 27-year-old jerry Jerome smith was charged with gunning down three people at a Dothan crack house in October of 1996. Final sentencing has been set for next month.
Jurors deliberated less than an hour before recommending the death penalty on an 11 to 1 vote. Prosecutors told the panel Smith had a history of violence. They contended he killed the first victim over a $1500 drug debt, then shot the others to eliminate witnesses. Smith never denied the slayings.
His attorneys portrayed their client as a mentally retarded man who snapped during a drug binge because his mother had been threatened if he failed to collect on the debt. Judge Lawson Little is not bound by the jury's recommendation, but family members of the victims are convinced Smith deserves to be executed.
Judge little has set final sentencing for March 19th. A co-defendant in the case is scheduled for trial in April, 19-year-old Lekina Smith is also charged with capital murder.
Suspects arrested in triple slaying October 20th 1996
Three people have been arrested, including two teenage girls, in connection with the shooting deaths of three other people. Police believe the murders are drug-related. The violence erupted about 10 o'clock Saturday night in a home located at 1210 Sturgeon Court.
Police found two bodies lying outside the home. One in the front yard another in back. They're identified as 40-year-old Willie James Flournoy who lived in the house and 26-year-old Theresa Ann Helms of Wicksburg. A third victim, 29 year old David Lee Bennett of Midland City died later at a Dothan hospital.
Police say two unidentified individuals escaped unharmed while another man, 38 year old Derrick Gross of Evergreen, fought with the gunman who fled the scene when a car approached.
Authorities say the residence had a reputation as a crack house and they believe the shooting is drug related. Three people have been arrested.
The alleged triggerman is identified as 25-year-old Jerry Jerome Smith of Newville. He's charged with three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. An alleged accomplice, 17-year-old Lekina Neshay Smith, no relation to the gunman, is charged with one count of murder. A 16-year-old female has been charged with hindering prosecution for allegedly helping to hide the murder weapon and refusing to cooperate with police. A .22 caliber rifle believed used in the slayings has been recovered. The murder suspects are being held without bond and are expected to make their initial court appearance Monday afternoon.