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Defense Cites Suicide Attempts Smith’s Family Cited As Evidence She Wished To Die

Fri., July 21, 1995

A social worker Thursday described Susan Smith’s confused, dysfunctional extended family and Smith’s suicidal tendencies as the defense attempted to bolster its contention that Smith planned to kill herself when she drowned her sons, Michael, 3, and Alex, 1.

Pointing to Smith’s extended family tree on a chart, University of South Carolina social worker Arlene Andrews described how depression, suicide and alcohol abuse had marred both maternal and paternal sides.

Her father committed suicide when she was 3 and a brother, grandmother and an aunt all attempted suicide, Andrews testified.

Smith also twice attempted suicide as a teenager and confided to teachers that she wanted to die, Andrews testified.

Andrews appeared in the first day of defense testimony in Smith’s tawdry capital murder trial, after the prosecution rested its case Thursday following only two days of testimony.

In other testimony Thursday, two law-enforcement agents said Smith was extremely remorseful the day she confessed to killing her boys. A supervisory FBI agent, Carol Allison, testified that Smith cried uncontrollably after she confessed to he drownings. “It was very emotional, gut wrenching,” Allison said. “She was sobbing. There were tears and fluids from her eyes, her nose and her mouth.” Allison, too, wept when she read Smith’s confession, she said.

Defense lawyer David Bruck, who has not formally entered a plea for Smith, has said the defense hopes to save the 24-year-old former secretary from the death penalty. But there is also a chance Smith could be found guilty of a lesser offense than murder if jurors believe she intended to commit suicide when she rolled her car into the fishing lake in October.

The defense also presented a witness to explain the contents of Smith’s Mazda Protege when it was found at the bottom of the lake. Wednesday, the prosecution disclosed that the car contained a wedding album, maternity clothes and toys, evidence that could support the idea that Smith went to the lake to erase all evidence of her marriage and childbirth, but not to kill herself.

But Smith’s supervisor at Conso Products, Wanda Palmer, told jurors that Smith had brought her wedding album to work in the spring of 1994 to show co-workers, and that it was not unusual for her to keep clothes and other items in her car.

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