Steven Smith was convicted of the 1998 murder of his girlfriend’s 6-month-old baby said in a parole hearing that, while he wanted to sexually assault the baby, he did not want to kill the child. Smith’s attorneys claim the death of Autumn Carter was an accident and their client should avoid the death penalty.
Smith’s lawyers, Joseph Wilhelm and Tyson Fleming, are planning to argue that the Ohio man should avoid the death penalty, because he was too drunk while sexually assaulting the baby and did not realize the attack was killing the child, reports the Associated Press. According to Wilhelm and Fleming, Ohio law says that the death penalty can only be given to those who intended to murder. Smith, they argue, had no plans to kill the daughter of his girlfriend and it was just a “horrible accident.”
“Despite the shocking nature of this crime, Steve's death sentence should be commuted, because genuine doubts exist whether he even committed a capital offense,” Smith’s attorneys said in documents prepared for the Ohio Parole Board.
The sexual assault occurred on Sept. 29, 1998, at the home of Kaysha Frye, Smith’s girlfriend of 6 months at the time, reports AP. According to court records, Frye was awakened by Smith, who was naked, after he placed her unresponsive daughter in her bed. After discovering Autumn was not breathing, Frye accused Smith of murdering her daughter and ran to a neighbor’s house, notes AP.
Smith was a heavy drinker and had a blood-alcohol content level of .123, above the legal limit in Ohio, at 11 a.m., eight hours after the attack. According to his attorneys, Frye did not want to have sex with Smith and he sexually assaulted the baby out of revenge, reports AP.
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Prosecutors are denying Smith’s claims and that the attack on Autumn lasted for 30 minutes and the injuries suffered by the baby were consistent with homicide, notes AP.
“The horrific attack upon Autumn Carter showed much more than Smith's stated purpose,” prosecutor James Mayer said in a prepared statement for Tuesday’s parole hearing.
Smith’s defense includes expert testimony stating that the baby suffocated underneath Smith within three to five minutes of the attack. Smith’s attorneys argue that the jury could only try the Ohio man for murder as no sexual assault or rape charges were filed against Smith. If Ohio’s Parole Board rejects Smith’s defense, he will be the 51st inmate executed in Ohio since the death penalty was reintroduced in 1999, reports AP.