Good Friday lived up to its name for Shirley Ree Smith.
Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown commuted Smith's 15-years-to-life sentence to time served, based on the "unusual circumstances" in Smith's case, reports The Associated Press.
A jury convicted Smith of killing her seven-week-old grandson, Etzel Glass, in a 1997 shaken baby case, despite conflicting testimony from multiple expert witnesses. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the conviction in 2006, "deeming the evidence against her so flimsy it violated her constitutional right to a fair trial," reports the Los Angeles Times.
In October, the Supreme Court told the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the verdict against Smith, scolding the Ninth Circuit for repeatedly supplanting the jury verdict in the case with its own opinion.
"It is not the job of this court, and was not that of the [Ninth] Circuit, to decide whether the state's theory was correct. The jury decided that question, and its decision is supported by the record," the Court wrote in a per curiam opinion.
But that doesn't mean that Court believed that Smith should go back to jail. The Supreme Court mentioned the option of clemency in the opinion, and it seems that Governor Jerry Brown was listening.
Gov. Brown rarely commutes sentences. Smith's commutation is the Governor's first clemency grant during his current term in office. Brown's spokesperson, Gil Duran, said that Brown only granted one other clemency request during his first two terms as governor.
Shirley Ree Smith was shocked by the news. "I just can't believe this is finally over with. Everybody's so excited, but I just can't believe it," Smith told the Los Angeles Times
- Shirley Ree Smith v. Gwendolyn Mitchell (FindLaw's CaseLaw)
- Cavazos v. Smith (Supreme Court)
- Gov. Brown Signs Bill Requiring Notice for Clemency (San Francisco Chronicle)
- Reliability of Shaken Baby Syndrome Diagnosis Questioned (FindLaw's Blotter)