Nov 7th, 2017
Sabrina Butler Smith will join a group of panelists at Jackson State Community College on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, at 12:30 p.m. for a discussion entitled A Broken System: Perspectives on the Death Penalty. The event will be held in Jim Moss Center for Nursing, Rm. 203 at Jackson State. In 1990, Sabrina Butler Smith, a teen mother from Mississippi, was convicted of murdering her nine-month-old son, Walter. She was later exonerated of all wrongdoing and is one of only two women in the United States exonerated from death row.
On April 12, 1989, Mrs. Smith rushed Walter to the hospital after he suddenly stopped breathing. Doctors tried to resuscitate the baby, but failed. The day after her son's death, Mrs. Smith was arrested for child abuse because of bruises left by her resuscitation attempts. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
Her conviction was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1992. The court said that the prosecution had failed to prove that the incident was anything more than an accident. At retrial, she was acquitted on Dec. 17, 1995, after a very brief jury deliberation. It is now believed that the baby may have died either of cystic kidney disease or from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Mrs. Smith spent more than five years in prison and 33 months on death row.
Other panelists at the event include Cynthia Vaughn, whose mother, Connie, was murdered in Memphis in 1984 and whose stepfather, Don Johnson, is now on Tennessee death row convicted of the crime; Amy Lawrence, Coordinator of Tennessee Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty; and Reverend Stacy Rector, Executive Director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (TADP).
"In October, Rickey Dale Newman of Arkansas became the 160th person since 1973 to be exonerated and released from death row in this country," said TADP Director Reverend Stacy Rector. "Since 2000, Tennessee has released four individuals who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death while executing six. Mrs. Smith's story reminds us of just how real this risk is."