Last week I wrote about the plight of Pamela Smart, who in 1991, at the age of 22, was found guilty of conspiracy to murder her husband. Gregg Smart was shot dead by his wife’s 16-year-old lover and another teenager. Smart was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
To this day Smart, now 51, expresses deep remorse for her affair with Billy Flynn but steadfastly maintains she did not plot with him to murder her newlywed husband.
Over the last three decades advances in both neuroscience and sentencing reform underscore what a life term with no parole means for a young person – what the U.S. Supreme Court called “cruel and unusual punishment.” Because science has proven that those under 25 don’t have fully developed brains, especially the part that guides rational thinking, you don’t often see life without parole (LWOP) sentences handed out to that age group these days. And there is a trend in prosecutor’s and governor’s offices to take a second look at these older LWOP cases with an eye toward granting parole to truly rehabilitated convicts.
Back in the early 1990s Smart worked as a media liaison for the public schools. She was described as accomplished in academics but socially immature. At trial the prosecution painted her as a master manipulator who convinced not only her teenage lover but several of his friends to kill for her.