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Defense Lawyer: Life in Prison Is Susan Smith’s Greatest Fear

July 25, 1995

UNION, S.C. (AP) _ Susan Smith fears the loneliness of life in prison more than the electric chair, her lawyer told a jury that will decide how to punish her for drowning her two young sons.

The worst thing jurors could do would be to sentence Ms. Smith to life behind bars, defense attorney David Bruck said during opening statements of the trial’s penalty phase.

``Susan is the kind of person who cannot bear to be alone,″ Bruck told the jury Monday. ``She will be a lonely person for the rest of her life, whether it lasts as long as God intended it should or you decide it ends.″

Assistant prosecutor Keith Giese told the jury to ignore the excuses defense lawyers will give for Ms. Smith and decide her fate based on what she did to 14-month-old Alex and 3-year-old Michael.

``Actions speak louder than words,″ Giese said. ``If you are going to judge Susan Smith, judge her by her actions.″

Prosecutor Tommy Pope expected to complete his presentation today. He planned to show the jury a videotaped re-enactment of Ms. Smith’s car sinking into John D. Long Lake, though Bruck was expected to ask Circuit Judge William Howard to bar the tape.

Howard ruled Monday that the jury won’t see grisly police photographs of the drowned boys. The defense argued that the photographs, shot after the boys had been submerged in the lake for nine days, would show decomposition, not injuries directly inflicted by their mother.

The boys’ father, David Smith, who divorced Ms. Smith in May while she was in jail, is to testify for the prosecution. He has sat near the front of the courtroom throughout the trial, occasionally weeping but otherwise displaying little emotion.

Ms. Smith’s lawyers are expected to grill Smith about allegations of adultery and his book deal. He has said he will give royalties to children’s charities but will keep a $20,000 advance.

``I just don’t know if he can create the kind of sympathy for the boys or make the jurors mad enough to kill her when he’s got the book coming and his checkered past,″ said Pete Partee, a Greenville lawyer who is following the trial.

Howard allowed prosecutors to show videotapes of television interviews that Ms. Smith gave on Nov. 3, repeating her black carjacker hoax and making such tearful statements as, ``Michael and Alex ... be strong and hang on to each other.″

Later that day, she confessed to rolling her car into John D. Long Lake on Oct. 25 with the boys strapped in their car seats.

When the tapes were played, Ms. Smith leaned on the defense table and appeared to cry.

Jurors deliberated just 2 1/2 hours Saturday before convicting Ms. Smith of murder, rejecting a verdict of involuntary manslaughter.

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