april 18, 2012 source : http://www2.dothaneagle.com
Randolph Flournoy said he’ll never forgive Jerry Jerome Smith for killing his brother more than 15 years ago.
“God already done spoken through the judge,” said Flournoy.
Houston County Circuit Court Judge Michael Conaway sentenced 41-year-old Smith to death Wednesday, affirming a recommendation by a jury returned earlier this year.
It became the third time a Houston County judge has sentenced Smith to death for the same capital murder convictions.
A jury found Smith guilty of killing Willie James Flournoy, 40, of Dothan, Theresa Ann Helms, 26, of Wicksburg and David Lee Bennett, 29, of Midland City. The three people were killed at a Sturgeon Court residence on Oct. 19, 1996, which police had described as a crack house. All three people were shot to death in the home.
Several months ago the state Supreme Court upheld Smith’s conviction, but reversed his sentence.
The judge could have affirmed the jury’s recommendation of the death penalty or overturned it and issued a sentence of life in prison without the opportunity for parole.
“Let’s go ahead and give him his last meal,” Flournoy said. “You can not pat the devil on the head and think he’s going to change.”
Marvin Helms said Smith fatally shot his sister seven times.
“I’m tired of coming here for the same thing,” Helms said. “He shot two men less times than he shot my sister. They don’t need to give him life. They need to go on and kill him. They need to take him down to sparky.”
According to the deathpenalty.org website, the primary method of execution is lethal injection in Alabama, although inmates convicted before 2002 can choose either electrocution or lethal injection.
In contrast, Bobby Bennett, the brother of David Lee Bennett, said he disagreed with the court’s sentence.
“I think it should’ve been life without parole. Maybe God can use this young man, even in prison,” Bennett said. “I just don’t believe in taking a man’s life. Who are we to judge?”
Bennett recalled his brother as a forgiving person.
“I still believe in chances even though my brother didn’t have any,” Bennett said. “God brings closure. God forgives, and so must we.”
Conaway heard arguments from Smith’s attorney, Aaron Gartlan, and Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska before making his ruling.
Attorney David Hogg, who also represented Smith, said his client’s first two sentences were reversed. The death sentence was reversed because of comments made by some of the relatives of victims in the murders during the jury selection of the trial.
Valeska referred to Smith as someone who ran a drug trafficking enterprise. Valeska also said Smith has shown the court no remorse.
Smith turned down an opportunity to say anything before the court made its ruling.
“All he wanted was money for his drug enterprise,” Valeska said. “Jerry Jerome Smith is the worst of the worst. In the history of the city of Dothan no one has ever killed three people and tried to kill a fourth. We don’t call for vengeance, we call for justice.”
Gartlan asked the court to consider reports he turned in to the court indicating his client was mentally retarded.
“We were not allowed to develop that issue with the jury,” Gartlan said. “They were not allowed to consider the full picture.”
The state Supreme Court upheld the court’s ruling that Smith was not mentally retarded, which in the state of Alabama would have prevented him from facing the death penalty.
The Supreme Court’s opinion said Smith’s actions of “systematically” killing three people and attempting to kill a fourth after his gun jammed were not the actions of a mentally retarded individual.
Gartlan said the Supreme Court’s ruling did not limit him from presenting his client’s mental retardation as mitigating evidence.
Valeska told the Eagle earlier that it was a death penalty case because two or more people were killed at the same time, and that they were killed during a burglary.