Little Feather found guilty on all counts
By Drew Pierson
Found guilty of the gruesome murder of two Bastrop police officers in 2007, Tanya "Little Feather" Smith wept uncontrollably Thursday night in the Bossier Parish Courthouse, matched in her anguish only by the quiet tears of the widows she left behind.
"These are great police officers," said Jerry Jones, the Ouachita-Morehouse district attorney who prosecuted the case. "This case hurt me tremendously."
Smith was found guilty of 10 crimes, including two counts of second-degree murder against Bastrop police officers Charles "Chuck" Wilson and John Smith, as well as possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana and gun offenses among other charges. The sentence for second-degree murder in Louisiana is automatically life in prison without parole. Smith already had been sentenced to 27 years in jail in January by a federal judge for those same gun and drug charges.
Smith murdered Wilson and Officer John Smith on Aug. 10, 2007, in a bloody shoot-out at a Budget Inn in Bastrop. Smith and her now-dead boyfriend, Dennis Clem, were on the run after allegedly participating in a double-homicide in Houston.
Officers Wilson and Smith went to the motel looking for another person wanted on unrelated charges, and when those officers knocked on Smith's and Clem's motel room door, Smith could be seen on surveillance tape opening the door for the officers and letting them in.
Out of sight, shots rang out on the surveillance tape from inside the motel room only moments later, and the two officers came staggering out, gunned-down in cold-blooded fashion by Clem. Smith would quickly leave the premises, and Clem would die in a shoot-out soon after with responding officers.
Prosecutors argued that Smith participated in the shooting inside the motel room, and alleged Smith carried the weapon she used with her in her purse as she walked out of the room.
"You know what you have to do," Jones told the jury during closing arguments Thursday morning. "Do it. Find her guilty. Ten times."
The prosecution and defense held their closing arguments Thursday after about nine days of the trial, which was moved here after a change-of-venue request was granted. The jury started deliberating at about 1:30 p.m.
One of the main points of contention between the defense and prosecution was Jones and co-counsel Geary Aycock's detailed description of Smith's alleged membership in a white supremacist group called the "Aryan Circle." Prosecutors had argued they needed to use the information to paint a picture of the state of mind Smith and Clem would have been in when the officers arrived at the motel that day. However, the defense argued prosecutors were merely trying to sway the jury into convicting Smith based on her alleged criminal past.
"This whole case has been about speculation," co-defense counsel Charles Kincade said during closing arguments. "They're trying to muddy her up. And maybe she is a little muddy. Maybe she is a lot muddy ... But they (prosecutors) are hoping you won't look at the fact that they don't have a case."
It took the jury until 6 p.m. to reach a verdict, calling everyone back to chambers four times for various requests or clarifications. One of those included a concern by jury members that one juror admitted he didn't understand certain parts of the law, and apparently told his fellow jurors he only had a 10th-grade education. The concern was communicated in a message sent via the foreman to the judge.
At 6 p.m., the jury asked presiding judge Scott Leehy if they could request this juror be replaced with one of the alternate jurors who had sat through the trial, but Leehy denied the motion. Moments later the jury responded that they had reached a verdict. The juror who didn't understand the law, according to the message from the jury to the judge, voted guilty for the second-degree murder charges against Smith. Two of the other jurors found her innocent of those charges, though that was not enough to garner a not-guilty verdict.
The jurors declined to comment on the case.
Defense attorney Louis Scott asked for a mistrial based on information from the jury that one of them apparently did not understand the law. Leehy quickly denied the request, but Scott had it placed on the record, and said it might be grounds for appeal. Scott also reiterated his opposition to prosecutors' use of Smith's alleged violent history during the trial.
"Basically I believe that if the judge had not allowed the information about the Aryan Circle to used in court, perhaps this verdict would have been different," Scott said.
Amy Wilson and Leslie Smith, the widows of the two officers, declined comment after the trial. But the verdict was greeted with jubilation by a courtroom composed of law enforcement personnel, and one person loudly whispered "Yes!" as the guilty charge was read.
As the verdict was announced, a member of law enforcement grasped both of the widows' shoulders from behind and bent his head, as if in prayer.
There will be no bail for Smith before her sentencing hearing on April 3. A pre-sentencing report is due to Leehy on March 27.
"I'm not painting her as a bad person," Jones said in his closing argument. "I'm painting her as a murderer."
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03-07-2009, 01:53 AM #1
Little Feather found guilty on all counts
Views or opinions presented in this FORUM POSTING are solely those of the author.
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03-07-2009, 02:05 PM #2
The sad part about this is that taxpayers are going to have to go through another high cost court battle since we all know that this will be granted an appeal.
I just hope that if she did it, she gets punished for it.
God rest the souls of those two officers who gave their all in the line of duty
03-16-2009, 02:08 PM #3
Hate to play Devil's Advocate on this one, but it does sound a bit fishy. If there were no witnesses, how can they convict her of 2nd degree murder. I would guess the best they should have been able to do is call her an accessory, and obviously for leaving the scene/failing to render aid. Did they do a parafin test on her to prove she had fired a weapon?
It would seem to be that saying she was allegedly part of an Aryan Nation group is stupid, and irrelevant.
Then again, it is Louisiana, the only state where you dont need to go to law school to take the bar exam.
03-16-2009, 02:15 PM #4
double post sorry.