March 2, 1995 in Nation/World

Smith Lawyers To Use Mental Illness Defense Trial For South Carolina Woman Accused Of Drowning Her Sons Set For July

Associated Press

Susan Smith’s defense to charges she drowned her two sons will be based on mental illness, her lawyers said Wednesday, declining to specify whether she will plead innocent or guilty.

Circuit Judge William Howard ordered Smith to be examined by state doctors to determine her competency to stand trial and her responsibility for her actions.

Prosecutor Tommy Pope contends Smith was sane the night the boys died and he is seeking the death penalty.

Under state law, if a jury finds Smith guilty but mentally ill, she still could be sentenced to die in the electric chair.

A verdict of innocent by reason of insanity would mean Smith was incapable of knowing right from wrong at the time of the drownings, and she could be sentenced to a psychiatric facility until doctors declared her sane and a judge agreed.

The judge denied the prosecutor’s request to have the defense be more specific about its strategy.

Smith faces two counts of murder in the Oct. 25 deaths of her sons, Michael, 3, and Alex, 14 months. For nine days, she claimed a carjacker took her sons. But on Nov. 3 she confessed to letting her car roll into John D. Long Lake with the boys still strapped into their seats.

A judge already has entered an innocent plea on her behalf, a formality in scheduling her trial, set for July 10.

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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