Last week I reviewed a documentary called What I Want My Words To Do To You, about a writing workshop playwright Eve Ensler holds in a women's prison. (Read my review HERE.) The documentary is lovely, but I was a bit surprised to see some "celebrity" criminals in the group.*
The first two were part of the Weather Underground and looked similar to benign retirees. Judith Clark was sentenced to 75 years in prison for her role as a driver in a robbery that ended with three homicides:
Kathy Boudin was sentenced to 20-years-to-life for her part in the same robbery. She was granted parole in 2003:
The participant who really took me by surprise, though, was Pamela Smart:
Now 47 years old, Smart has been in prison since 1991, when she was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, witness tampering, and being an accomplice to first-degree murder. In the documentary, Smart does not look like someone sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. If being a prisoner can make you look that good, then convict me.
Her hair is perfect; her make-up carefully applied; she's nicely dressed; her long (fake) nails are beautifully painted; and the woman wears a lot of bling. I've seen at least two movies based on Smart's case. I thought, How come a woman who convinced some teenagers to murder her young husband isn't in shackles and solitary confinement (not that solitary confinement is the answer to dealing with dangerous criminals--it usually makes them worse because they lose their minds)?
But during the documentary, as Smart dealt with her writing assignments, she mentioned that Bill, the 15 year old who killed 24-year-old Greggory Smart, committed the murder after she ended her relationship with him and said she was going back to her husband. She spoke of the fact that she will never leave prison, while one of the accomplices--Bill's friend who drove the car the night of the murder--has been paroled, and a boy who waited in the car has been released. Bill, who pulled the trigger, and his friend who held Smart down, will first be eligible for parole in 2015. She also took responsibility for the fact that the affair led to her husband's death.
This information made me curious about Smart. I did some research about her online, and I hope to see a documentary about her that was on HBO during 2014. It's true that it was incredibly stupid of her to have an affair with a 15-year-old boy. It's possible that she encouraged him to commit the murder.
But she wasn't there the night that Greggory Smart was shot in their home. She didn't pull the trigger. She did not put the gun in Bill Flynn's hands.
She seems to have been portrayed as the wanton woman who convinced a much younger man to commit murder. She was only 23 years old herself. The case received a tremendous amount of scrutiny by the media. The trial was televised. A teenage girl who was involved in the case signed a $100,000 option for the rights to her story. The boys all arranged plea bargains before Smart's trial began.
I also learned that although Smart looked great in the documentary, prison life has not been pleasant for her. She has a metal plate in the left side of her face, where she no longer has any feeling, because of a severe beating by two inmates. "Sexy" photos of her were published in the National Enquirer in 2003. She complained about the photos and received two months in solitary confinement. She later filed a lawsuit claiming that a prison guard raped her and sold the photos to the magazine. The suit was dismissed, but she and another inmate filed again, stating they were sexually assaulted and coerced into posing for photos. This time, Smart received $23,875 from the state of New York.
Pamela Smart: sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. I wonder how much her gender, youth, and beauty had to do with the way she was treated. She says she wishes she had received the death penalty.
Infinities of love,
* I consider them celebrity criminals because their crimes made them infamous.
What with their TV's & other niceties, I believe most prisons are too soft for criminals!!ReplyDelete
Why dont you spend some time behind bars and I'm sure you'll change your mind. Being locked up all day everyday. Eat when your told, outside rec when your told, visits when they say, shower when they say. Yes they may have some things to remind them of the outside but its not fun living locked up daily and missing friends and familyDelete
Hi, Janie Junebug!ReplyDelete
As I'm sure you know, the Nicole Kidman comedrama To Die For is based on the novel which was based on the Pamela Smart case. We might never know the truth behind the murder of Smart's husband. Perhaps she was simply trying to end the relationship with young Flynn and he took it upon himself to retaliate by killing his "rival." Even so, that does not excuse Pamela for getting involved with a minor. It always ends badly. Pamela is an educated woman with a lot to contribute to society. She made poor choices that had tragic consequences. Now she must pay for her mistake by serving the rest of her life in prison. It's very sad.
That's a lot to process. The criminal justice system has many many issues, from the psychological paradigm we learned from the Stanford Prison Experiment back in 1971, to how horrible solitary confinement, to people who are serving bafflingly long sentences for drug possession, to state-sponsored executions of innocent people. But I don't know what to do. Maybe stop making the whole process profitable for so many people? Invest in early childhood education or rehabilitation programs? I honestly don't know. Damn, you laid this trip on my this early on a Friday? Then I feel guilty feeling like that when there are people rotting away in prison, getting sexually and physically assaulted on a daily basis (women and men) for disproportionately (and relatively) benign crimes, serving along side murderers and pedophiles and sociopaths. How am I supposed to process this, this early, pre-coffee? I'm going to find some house-lizards to stomp to make sense of the world again.ReplyDelete
That looks interesting. The justice system here is strange..but people are stranger.ReplyDelete
An affair with a 15-year-old while married? No further questions.ReplyDelete
Janie, such a well-written story to read this morning. Doesn't your heart ached for her? Sometimes we suffer temporarily for making a bad decision, but this is really incredible. And what do we gain by having this person in prison? Adds to our outrageous incarceration percentage and cost.ReplyDelete
Wow, this was a great post. I'm amazed at how she looks, too. I would have given up hygiene and make up long ago. I'd be full on shaved head.ReplyDelete
I think the third one looks a little shifty. The first to look more like people you'd see on the street.ReplyDelete
I wonder how often people go to jail because they are unlikable? I don't remember too much of Smart's trial, but I don't think she came off very well. I think that well put together look sort of hurts her. I'd have gone with bedraggled and sorrowful.ReplyDelete
Wow! That sounds interesting. Added it to my long, long queue. I wish it was on streaming. If she's in jail for life that kid who killed him should be in for life, too. He did the actual killing and yet he'll go free. Makes no sense to me, either.ReplyDelete
This is really interesting. At first I was thrown by "celebrity" criminals, but you're right that their crimes made them infamous. And a metal plate in her face? OUCH!ReplyDelete
wow the first picture looks like my friend's mom. There are people who walk among us and the secret life would make one's jaw drop. Her act was calculated and she knew what she was doing at that time so that she is in prison for life is fine with me but, what i don't get is how the one who pulled the trigger is allowed to be paroled. This is an injustice. Regardless whether he was younger or not, he knew to kill another human being was wrong. He was in on it from the beginning so he should never receive parole. The others who held her husband down should also be in prison for life-no parole. I don't have much sympathy in that regard. The prison system is plain ad nasty. When I read how wonderful she looked, I could not help but think the people who filmed it, "cleaned her up" so that she would look good. It could be the prison wanted her to look good so it would not be shown as if they mistreat their prisoners.ReplyDelete
Interesting. There's always more than one side to everything and in this instance I don't have an opinion.ReplyDelete
Prison is no walk in the park for anyone, no matter how nice they "clean up" for the cameras.ReplyDelete
None of those women look like the criminal type. People can sure make some dumb decisions and mess up their lives!ReplyDelete
Speaking in gross generalities, fifteen-year-olds don't always think straight... especially boys. Especially boys who are so gaga over having sex, that one intelligent thought they might otherwise have had gets lost in the shuffle. Even though he pulled the trigger, as a minor, the courts (at that time) were limited in their sentencing parameters. As the adult in the situation, Smart bears more responsibility, even though she didn't pull the trigger. He misbehavior led to her husband's death. Still, it's a sad situation. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Still... I think she should be eligible for parole, too.ReplyDelete
My only guess as to why the actual shooter is not serving the same sentence is because he was a minor and coerced by her (or retaliation for breaking up). It does leave one to question what's fair or right with our prison system. Then there's Jodi Arias who is selling art on eBay while awaiting sentencing and has a huge fan base via Twitter and large donations being sent to her left and right. That girl should be in solitary for the rest of her life. She stabbed her ex repeatedly, shot him and almost cut his head off because she was pissed he dumped her. Why is this trial taking years to complete and costing the taxpayers millions of dollars? So again, what is really fair or right in our prison system? Great post.ReplyDelete
Quite a story about Pamela Smart! It is amazing how royally one can screw up their life with just a few unfortunate choices.ReplyDelete
~what Pickleope said.ReplyDelete
One bad decision, compounded. Some folks are lucky in the outcome of their bad decisions, others aren't. It's a crap shoot, and craps is an iffy game. As we used to say, "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime."ReplyDelete
Just to play devil's advocate, I wonder how we would be looking at this case if Pamela Smart was a married man having sex with a 15 year old girl. That's statutory rape. And that's the crime she should be paying for, imo, not murder.ReplyDelete
What could possibly entice her to cheat on her husband for a 15 year old boy? That kid must have some game.ReplyDelete
She is where she needs to be. What pisses me off is the boys got off so easy. They need to grow old and die right beside her in prison.ReplyDelete
Stories like this ares o upsetting to me. I hate to think someone had been wrongly convicted. Also the disrespect women seem to receive anyway, whether from other prisoners or prison staff. How can it be "justice served" when after they are incarcerated, they receive worst treatment for simply being there. Crazy.ReplyDelete
That was an interesting read. I did a poetry workshop in a prison last year (a men's prison - and I was on the sex offenders' wing) and it was quite an experience. They loved writing poetry though. I don't think they got to do much creative.ReplyDelete
Now this was interesting but I am a bit of a crime nut I like reading about crimes and why they happened and how they were solved and what happened to the criminals and victimsReplyDelete
What an intriguing story! I was thinking about this the other day--what does a criminal look like? Mike had forgotten his phone at my house, so I went to his work and put it in his truck. Someone called the cops on me, saying I'd broken into an employee's truck. Mike had to tell them that the woman who'd they'd described as "a suspicious, skinny, blonde" was his girlfriend--me LOL! I asked Mike later, "Do I LOOK like a criminal?" He responded that so many people don't look like criminals these days, people must suspect everyone. Kind of interesting. Oh--and I'm glad he vouched for me. Geez! lol AWESOME post :)ReplyDelete
You look pretty darn suspicious to me. In fact, I can't find some of my jewelry.Delete
It is surprising that all of the prisoners in the photos are smiling, and appear to have gone to the beauty shop. I enjoyed your review of Eve Ensler's documentary, and hope to see it. The Pamela Smart case is pretty disturbing, but she's clearly been suffering in prison. Remarkably, she doesn't show it in the photo, or from what you've seen in the documentary. Charles Manson is engaged, and his fiancé is registered at Bed Bath & Beyond. We'll never really know what goes on in prison. Great story, Janie!ReplyDelete