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Susan Smith Apologizes to Ex-Husband During Court Break

July 26, 1995

UNION, S.C. (AP) _ Jurors stared stony-faced and some looked away today as they were shown photos of the drowned bodies of Susan Smith’s sons, sitting in their car seats with a soggy teddy bear on the floor of the car she rolled into a lake.

The children’s decomposed faces were not shown. In one case, Circuit Judge William Howard used scissors to remove the edge of a photo where 14-month-old Alex Smith’s face could be seen.

The photographs and testimony by a state investigator wrapped up prosecutors’ part of Ms. Smith’s sentencing hearing, which earlier included sobbing testimony from her ex-husband, David Smith, and her whispered apology to him: ``I’m so sorry, David.″

Ms. Smith’s lawyers now will try to convince the 12 jurors who convicted her Saturday of two counts of murder in the deaths of Alex and 3-year-old Michael Smith that she should not be sentenced to death.

They are expected to present relatives and other witnesses who will detail her life of emotional trauma, beginning with her father’s suicide when she was 6. One of their first witnesses will be Ms. Smith’s brother, Scotty Vaughan, defense lawyer David Bruck said.

If the jurors decide on death, Ms. Smith could choose the electric chair or lethal injection. Otherwise, she will receive a life sentence.

She initially claimed that a carjacker had abducted the boys. After a nine-day search, Ms. Smith confessed Nov. 3 to rolling her car into a lake with the boys strapped into their car seats.

This morning, assistant prosecutor Keith Giese led State Law Enforcement Agent Steve Derrick through a series of photographs taken when investigators towed Ms. Smith’s car out of the Lake.

As he pointed to one picture, Derrick said: ``What this is, is a picture of the purse, the teddy bear and the two feet that have the socks on of Michael Smith.″

David Smith did not respond to the apology his ex-wife offered Tuesday as she was led from the courtroom during a break.

``All my hopes, all my dreams, everything that I had planned for the rest of my life, it ended that day,″ Smith told the jury.

``I didn’t know what to do. It hurt. Everything I had planned on, my life with the kids, was gone,″ he said as he began to cry.

Three jurors wept during Smith’s emotional testimony, during which he held photos of his murdered sons in trembling hands. Several times, Ms. Smith leaned over the defense table and cried

Bruck called Smith’s testimony ``the most heartbreaking thing I ever heard in a courtroom.″

``But I don’t know that the conclusion the jury would draw from that is that Susan should be put in the electric chair,″ Bruck said outside court.

The Smiths divorced in May, but Smith told jurors the marriage was rocky even before their second child was born. Once, when he came home late from work and his wife threatened to return to her mother, he told her she should leave right then.

``Shamefully, I did grab Susan by her arms and just more or less dragged her out of the bed and out to the front porch. Didn’t throw her down or anything, just let her down on the porch,″ he said.

After Smith testified, the jury watched two videotaped re-enactments of the crime. Investigators rolled a car like Ms. Smith’s into John D. Long lake, where she drowned the boys Oct. 25.

The jurors sat transfixed during the second video, recorded by a camera placed inside the vehicle to show the view the boys had. As the car slowly sank, water poured in under the dashboard, finally overcoming the last air pocket.

Smith’s book about the murders was scheduled to go on sale Friday, but by Tuesday many stores already had copies on display.

In ``Beyond All Reason _ My Life With Susan Smith,″ Smith wrote that he first felt sorry for her, but later decided that he could only have a full life again if she were imprisoned for life.

``I don’t want to see Susan die. But if it happens, so be it,″ he wrote.

That apparently contradicts his past statements that he wanted his ex-wife to be executed. He was not asked about that Tuesday.

Defense lawyers had been expected to grill Smith about taking a $20,000 advance for the book, as well as abuse allegations. But they decided not to question him.

Bruck said he skipped the cross-examination at the request of Ms. Smith, who told him she wanted to spare her ex-husband any more pain.

Anticipating a cross-examination, prosecutor Tommy Pope had raised the book and abuse issues himself. ``Did you write that book to make money off your children?″ he asked Smith.

Smith replied that he hoped the book would return the public’s focus to his dead sons.

``So many people were portraying Susan as the victim,″ he said.

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