Smith Defense Begins After Coroner Testifies No Evidence of Violence
UNION, S.C. (AP) _ A state investigator, called as the first witness for the defense, testified today that Susan Smith was racked with guilt and wanted to kill herself when she confessed to drowning her two young sons.
Pete Logan, of the State Law Enforcement Division and formerly an FBI agent, was asked by defense lawyer Judy Clarke if Ms. Smith showed remorse during her Nov. 3 confession.
``Probably the greatest I’ve seen in 35 years,″ Logan testified.
Ms. Smith’s defense began its case today after Dr. Sandra Conradi, who performed autopsies on the two drowned boys, testified as the final prosecution witness that the bodies bore no marks of violence.
Prosecutor Tommy Pope announced that the state’s case was finished less than an hour into the morning session. Ms. Smith, 23, could face the death penalty if convicted of the murders she confessed to after claiming for nine days that a black carjacker abducted the boys.
Logan had testified as a prosecution witness during a pretrial hearing outside of the jury’s presence, but Pope did not call on him to testify before the jury.
Logan testified that he was called into the case on Oct. 29, four days after Ms. Smith reported her sons had been kidnapped. From that point, he interviewed her a total of about 25 hours up to the time of her confession, more than any other investigator.
Answering Ms. Clarke’s questions, he said he attempted to win Ms. Smith’s confidence by showing compassion. He reported she gradually revealed many problems and concerns, including fear that her then-husband had tapped her phone.
``She was concerned about people finding out about her affair with Mr. Findlay,″ Logan said. ``She told me about Mr. Findlay.″
Logan said this was a reference to her boss, Cary Findlay, not his son Tom, who had testified Wednesday about his own romantic relationship with Ms. Smith.
Tom Findlay testified that the day the boys died Ms. Smith had told him she was involved with his father, but quickly recanted the story.
Logan also spoke of that conversation, saying Ms. Smith told him Tom Findlay had replied, ``That’s too weird,″ and said he didn’t want to talk with her anymore.
Under questioning by Ms. Clarke, Logan recited many of the troubles Ms. Smith told him about her life: her father’s suicide at age 6, her parents’ separation when she was 3 and the molestation by her stepfather when she was a teen-ager.
In Wednesday testimony, jurors heard the words written by Tom Findlay that prosecutors say drove the young mother to kill her two sons: ``I just don’t want children.″
Defense lawyers have portrayed the deaths as a failed suicide by a woman under great mental pressure.
In a letter to Ms. Smith written a week before the boys died, Tom Findlay described her as ``intelligent, beautiful, sensitive, understanding.″ But he said the two of them could not have a relationship, in part because he does not want children.
The typed letter, written Oct. 17 and given to Ms. Smith on Oct. 18, was read aloud in court Wednesday during Findlay’s testimony.
Findlay testified that Ms. Smith had three conversations with him Oct. 25, the day she sent her car rolling into John D. Long Lake with the boys strapped inside. In the second one, she seemed suicidal, but later she seemed less distraught, he testified.
At one point during Wednesday’s session, Ms. Smith and her ex-husband, David Smith, burst into tears when a diver testified about what he saw when he shined a flashlight into Ms. Smith’s submerged car. Diver Steve Morrow choked as he said: ``I was able to see a small hand against the glass.″