Today’s blog post will not be about a mental health issue but an urgent and pressing need to appeal to Governor Kay Ivey to commute the death sentence of Willie Smith to life in prison. The State of Alabama does not have a vested interest in the execution of any person, let alone a person of color whom has an intellectual disability. If we are to consider that the I.Q. score of a person is generally accepted as a measure of a person’s intelligence, then Willie Smith’s score is considered to be equivalent to that of an 11 year old child. An 11 year old child does not have the intellectual and decision-making capabilities of an adult and this is why we have a juvenile justice system that is separate. It is recognition that an 11 year old cannot possibly form the mens rea requirement of a crime that the person committing the crime understands the full implications of their actions.
Furthermore, it has come to light that Smith might not have had the adequate and competent legal council that was his right as a defendant at trial. The attorney initially assigned to Mr. Smith’s defense was disbarred, which is the ultimate punishment an attorney is subjected to. In the phase of the trial determining whether or not the death penalty should be applied as punishment, Mr. Smith was represented by a junior attorney. This is a matter not suited for an attorney recently admitted to the bar. It is a matter for an experienced criminal defense lawyer with strong foundational knowledge of criminal law.
Finally, two jurors voted against the death penalty for Smith. That is a tacit admission that the death penalty was an unfair and unjust punishment to be applied in this particular case. Even the state’s own witness conceded that Smith had difficulties in “community use, health and safety, self-direction, social skills, and leisure skill areas.” This is why we must put considerable and polite pressure on Governor Kay Ivey to commute the sentence of Willie Smith. Putting Smith in a pine box does not serve the interests of the state, it only kills an 11 year old child in the body of an adult.
There is little to no doubt that Smith committed the act but there is considerable doubt that he had the mental capability to fully appreciate the nature of his crime. Smith did not get the adequate and competent defense to which he was entitled at both the trial and punishment phases. Imagine for one minute an 11 year old child faced with his or her own death and you will have a small glimpse into what is going on in Willie Smith’s mind right now.