It looks like Alabama woman Brittany Smith is going to trial. The defendant–who says she shot and killed her rapist in order to save her brother from a brutal attack–lost her appeal to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.
Judges ruled unanimously against Smith after she argued she would be immune from prosecution and her case dismissed, according to AL.com. Despite the 5-0 decision, Judge Elizabeth Kellum noted that the appellate process put a very “heavy burden” on petitioners.
“I question whether a petitioner would ever be successful in challenging a circuit court’s pretrial immunity ruling by mandamus,” she wrote.
The case stems from the fatal January 16, 2018 shooting of Todd Smith (no relation). In a profile by New Yorker journalist Elizabeth Flock, the defendant said she knew the alleged victim as a pitbull breeder, and took home a puppy. The day later, Todd Smith called her to say he was stranded at a city park, and she picked him up despite her initial reservations. (He had reportedly been kicked out of his father’s home and arrested, but the defendant wasn’t told this.) Then things turned terrifying after she brought him to her residence: he started an argument, head-butted her, choked her until she passed out, and raped her, according to her account. He allegedly threatened to kill her.
To make a very long story short, Brittany Smith said she was too afraid to contact authorities, and went as far as to leave a note with a gas station attendant with her attacker’s name on it. According to the account, her brother Chris McCallie later confronted Todd Smith about the rape. He was armed, and accidentally fired the gun into a cabinet, but put down the firearm and started wrestling with Todd Smith to kick him out of the house. But Todd Smith allegedly started overpowering him, and threatened to kill both Brittany and Chris.
The defendant said she picked up the gun, and fired several rounds.
Brittany Smith maintained self-defense, but lost a Stand Your Ground ruling at Jackson County court in February. Judge Jenifer Holt mentioned records claiming that Smith attempted to get ride of evidence, and that her testimony clashed with evidence. At the hearing, Jackson County District Attorney Jason Pierce tried to cast doubt on whether there had been a rape.
But a rape-kit evaluation determined that the defendant sustained 33 wounds to her body. In Flock’s words, the prosecutor said “there was no definitive sample of Todd’s semen,” but a nurse who examined Brittany after the shooting testified that this was normal in sexual assault cases. The defense also had trouble bringing up witnesses for Todd Smith’s prior bad acts: including at least half a dozen domestic violence cases. His ex-wife Paige Parker publicly backed up claims of her former spouse’s ugly behavior, once telling a radio host that Todd Smith beat and raped her for years.
Testimony at the Stand Your Ground hearing may not have convinced the judge, but it resulted in a major shift in tone for one of Todd Smith’s relatives. Cousin Jeff Poe had previously told Flock he thought about having the defendant killed. But he later left the courthouse in tears after hearing the nurse examiner’s testimony, according to one of the New Yorker profiles.
“It put me in a sick state of mind listening to all that today,” he wrote. “I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart.”
The profiles spent much time on the gender disparities among defendants who claimed self-defense (women were way less successful than men), and the general lack of respect and attention that domestic violence victims get from local law enforcement.
“I hate to say this, but, Jackson County, they’re a little bit behind on the times,” McCallie said.
[Screengrab via WHNT; mugshot via Jackson County Sheriff’s Office]
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