Oklahoma City man who killed his family no longer facing death penalty
An Oklahoma City man convicted of killing his wife and her four children in 1993 will be getting off of death row unless the U.S. Supreme Court gets involved in his case.
A federal judge vacated Roderick L. Smith's death sentences in December after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled he "is intellectually disabled as a matter of law and therefore constitutionally ineligible for execution."
The judge in January agreed to give the state attorney general, Mike Hunter, more time to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling.
Jurors at a 2010 retrial chose two death sentences as punishment for Smith for suffocating his two stepdaughters. Jurors chose sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole as punishment for fatally stabbing his wife and two stepsons.
If the decision stands, Smith will remain in prison and begin serving the no-parole life terms. He also could be resentenced for his stepdaughters' murders — to life in prison or life without the possibility of parole.
Smith, now 53, was an elementary school custodian. He confessed to police he stabbed his wife, Jennifer Smith, 31, during an argument over his being laid off.
He told police he stabbed her sons, Ladarian Carter, 7, and Glen Edward Carter Jr., 9, when they tried to help her. He said he then killed the girls, Shameka Carter, 10, and Kenesha Carter, 6.
The victims’ decomposing bodies were found on June 28, 1993, inside their Oklahoma City home.
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In a decision in 2002 in a Virginia case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that mentally retarded murderers cannot be executed because of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Justices now use the phrase "intellectually disabled" instead.
Smith at the time was on death row for all five murders.
Because of the landmark ruling, Smith got a new trial in 2004 solely on the issue of his mental functioning. Jurors at that trial decided he was not mentally retarded despite evidence he had IQ scores as low as 55, well below normal.
Shortly afterward, though, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his death sentences. The appeals court found his lead defense attorney at the original 1994 trial failed to adequately represent him.
That decision led to another retrial in 2010.
The ruling on appeal that he is intellectually disabled came in August. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused in December to reconsider that ruling.
In their opinion, appellate judges were critical of a prosecution expert who had suggested Smith was deliberately doing poorly on his IQ tests. They said the expert "had no prior experience with the intellectually disabled and practiced almost exclusively in the unrelated field of forensic psychology."
The appellate judges also were critical of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals which had concluded the evidence at the 2004 trial "portrayed Smith as a person who is able to understand and process information, to communicate, to understand the reactions of others, to learn from experience or mistakes, and to engage in logical reasoning."