CONCORD — Pamela Smart has been denied a hearing before the Governor and Executive Council regarding her life sentence in one of New Hampshire’s most sensational murder cases.
The vote against holding a hearing was 4-0, with one abstention, as North Country Democrat Michael Cryans said he did not feel comfortable voting one way or the other.
Councilor Andru Volinsky was the only councilor to speak against the request before Wednesday’s vote.
He commended Smart’s legal team for well-prepared materials, but said Smart still refuses to fully acknowledge her role in her husband’s death.
Several of Smart’s supporters, including her mother Linda Wojas and longtime attorney Mark Sisti, were in the council chambers to observe the vote.
Smart was convicted by a Rockingham County jury in 1991 of accomplice to first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with a witness, in connection with the shooting death of her 24-year-old husband of less than a year, Gregory Smart.
Now 51, she remains behind bars at the maximum-security women’s prison in Bedford Hills, N.Y.
Jurors found her guilty of orchestrating her husband’s murder with the help of a 15-year-old lover, William Flynn, and three of his teenage friends, who tried to make the fatal shooting look like a botched robbery. The plot unraveled and the ensuing trial attracted worldwide interest.
“I know the Smart family has many heart-felt supporters here. This is a difficult decision because we have to honor and respect Greg’s life as well as consider Ms. Smart’s circumstances,” Volinsky said. “I have read all the materials, and there’s one sentence that helped me make up my mind.”
Volinsky alluded to the documents submitted by Smart’s attorney, in which she states, “I never wanted nor asked Mr. Flynn to murder Gregg, but I will forever carry the blame and guilt.”
Volinsky called the statement, “an indication of her lack of understanding of the circumstances that put her where she is, and for that reason I don’t think I can grant a commutation and I would decline to hold a hearing.”
Smart’s defense attorney, Mark Sisti of Chichester, said he was surprised that the council showed no interest in hearing his client’s appeal for clemency.
“It’s kind of shocking that they don’t want to face Pam, ask her questions directly and clarify any concerns they have,” he said after the vote. “They just gave up the opportunity to ask any question they wanted to and put their minds at ease. It’s time to rip away the myth of who Pam is and get down to the reality of who she is.”
Smart appealed her conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. She filed her first petition for commutation in 2004 and started the process for the current petition in February of this year.
Sisti says she will keep trying.
“Certainly we’ll be working with her, trying to support her over the next few years and hopefully we’ll get a change of heart and be able to present materials again,” he said.
The Attorney General’s office filed an 88-page letter in opposition to the request for a hearing. According to the letter from Associate Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin, director of the division of public protection, Smart was properly convicted to a life behind bars and that’s where she should stay.
“The petitioner claims that the process and evidence that led to her conviction was unfair; that is not true. What is unfair is that Greg Smart died at the hands of a young boy who was manipulated by the petitioner to carry out a murder for her own selfish reasons.”
Gov. Chris Sununu commended the council vote.
“I appreciate the Executive Council’s diligence in taking up this request and firmly agree with their decision to deny a hearing for Pam Smart,” he said.