The day before I published my latest update on her case (Self-Defense Loses Another Court Battle) Brittany Smith was pleading guilty to murder so she could escape spending the rest of her life in prison.
The plea deal did not make news until Sunday.
Brittany Smith needed her nightmare to end and, honestly, who can blame her.
In December 2017, Brittany Smith separated from her husband. To help her deal with the loneliness of her separation, Brittany wanted to get a puppy.
Todd Smith (no relation), someone Brittany met briefly when she was a teenager, posted on Facebook he was selling to dogs. They messaged through Facebook for a week about the dogs, during which time Todd made romantic advances. Brittany rejected those advances.
On January 15, 2018, Brittany went to Todd Smith’s home in Tennessee to purchase a dog.
The next day, Brittany received a text message from Todd Smith saying he was stranded in a park near the Tennessee/Alabama border and needed her help.
Todd Smith was kicked out of his father’s home and arrested but Brittany Smith was not informed of these facts. Had she known, it’s highly unlikely Brittany Smith would have offered him any assistance.
On January 16, 2018, Chris McCallie, Brittany’s brother, drove her to pick up Todd in his vehicle, and Brittany reluctantly agreed to let him sleep on the couch for the night.
Then things went very wrong.
According to Brittany’s statement to police, Todd Smith made romantic advances again, which Brittany rejected. Todd got angry when told Brittany “never saw him that way” – called her a bitch, chased her into her bedroom and choked her until she passed out.
When she came to some time later, Todd Smith attacked her and raped her again.
Todd Smith said he would kill Brittany if she told anyone or called 911. Despite that threat, through an admittedly strange series of events, Brittany was able to get word to her brother that she was in trouble.
Chris McCallie went back to his sister’s house with a gun to save her, got into an argument with Todd Smith. They struggled, Todd put a head lock on Chris and began choking him.
Brittany Smith picked up her brother’s gun, shot Todd once, and when he still refused to let go of her brother, shot him twice more. He was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.
Brittany told police Todd Smith brutally raped her twice that night.
A rape crisis centre nurse documented 33 separate and distinct wounds on Brittany’s body and concluded the bruises, bite marks and signs of strangulation were consistent with a sexual assault.
A toxicology report showed Todd Smith had methamphetamine and alcohol in his system when he died.
At Brittany Smith’s preliminary hearing in March 2o18, Alabama Circuit Court Judge Don Word ruled there was probable cause to charge her with murder.
Jackson County District Attorney Jason Rupert Pierce convened a Grand Jury and indicted Brittany Smith for murder, despite Alabama being one of 25 states with “Stand Your Ground” laws.
Alabama’s law allows for the use of lethal force in a variety of instances, including when someone has kidnapped or raped them.
Stand Your Ground Hearing
Brittany Smith’s case should be a slam dunk to qualify for protection under Alabama’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law and have all charges against her dismissed.
Victor Revill, an Alabama criminal-defense attorney who handles many Stand Your Ground claims, reviewed Brittany Smith’s case. In his expert opinion, Brittany Smith’s case is “Stand Your Ground all day.”
“That situation is one of the reasons why this law is in place,” said Victor Revill. “If her brother was saving her from her kidnapper or her rapist and the kidnapper is trying to fight her brother, in her situation you have the right to defend yourself and you have the right to defend the other person as well.”
Jackson County District Attorney Jason Pierce tried to cast doubt on whether Brittany Smith was even raped at all in his zeal to convict the young woman.
Brittany’s defence attorney ran into trouble when attempting to bring in witnesses to Todd Smith’s prior bad acts, which included at least six domestic violence charges.
Todd Smith had a lengthy criminal record, including 71 arrests in 1999 alone. He was arrested five times when he was married to Paige Parker and was also charged with assault in 2012, 2015, and 2016.
Paige Parker, now Todd Smith’s ex-wife, once told a radio talk show host that Todd Smith beat and raped her for years.
None of this mattered.
On February 3, 2020, Alabama Circuit Court Judge Jenifer Holt denied the Brittany Smith’s request for immunity from prosecution under Alabama’s Stand Your Ground law.
The Alabama Court of Appeals upheld Judge Holt’s ruling.
Legal experts, including one of the five judges who heard Brittany Smith’s appeal, say the process is biased against the defendant.
“I question whether a petitioner would ever be successful in challenging a circuit court’s pretrial immunity ruling by mandamus,” wrote Judge Elizabeth Kellum as part of the Appeals decision.
The Alabama Supreme Court also refused to overturn Judge Holt’s decision.
On May 13th, Brittany Smith’s lawyers filed a motion requesting Judge Jenifer Holt recuse herself from the case because of her blatant bias against the young woman.
“The petitioner is entitled to a fair and impartial judge but also to a fair and impartial jury,” wrote attorney Ron Smith (no relation to Brittany) in the petition.
“The numerous prejudicial comments in the trial court’s orders, have diminished the likelihood that Defendant will retain her right to a fair and impartial jury.”
The recusal request was denied.
Bail Revocation Hearing
On September 15, 2020, Judge Jenifer Holt issued a rare ruling in favour of Brittany Smith when Holt denied the District Attorney’s motion to revoke Smith’s bail.
“The trial of this case will begin in seven weeks on November 2, 2020. The Defendant needs to be readily available to assist her attorneys in preparing for trial. She can provide more assistance to her attorneys if she is not confined in jail.”
The Arson Charge
On September 18, 2020, Brittany Smith was arrested and charged with second-degree arson. No details were released about the arson but prosecutors were confident they would obtain a conviction.
Based on this new charge, Judge Jenifer Holt revoked Smith’s bail and ordered Brittany Smith to remain in custody at the Jackson County Jail until her trial on November 2nd.
The Guilty Plea
At every step through the justice system, Brittany Smith found herself on the short end of each decision.
The judge assigned to her case, Judge Jenifer Holt consistently showed bias against Brittany to the extent she attempted to have Holt removed from the case.
With all the cards stacked against her, it’s easy to see why Brittany Smith finally broke down and pleaded guilty.
“In any case, you’ve got to weigh what you know and can control with what you can’t,” said defense lawyer Ron Smith (no relation).
“We have no control over a jury or a judge that would sentence her.”
Brittany Smith’s guilty plea means she’ll serve another 7 months or so in jail, then house arrest for 18 months, then probation for an unspecified period of time.
That’s a far cry from spending the rest of her life in prison.
Did Brittany Smith kill Todd Smith?
Was she justified?
Clearly the District Attorney who did everything in his power to convict her and the Alabama Circuit Court judge who routinely ruled against her didn’t think so.
Personally, I believe the Alabama justice system totally failed Brittany Smith.
Special Thanks to Lauren Gill for her April 10, 2019, article on Brittany Smith’s case for many portions of the history outlined above.
For the rest of my coverage of Brittany Smith’s case, please see the following commentaries:
- Brittany Smith’s Nightmare is Alabama’s Epic Fail on Stand Your Ground Ruling
- Brittany Smith Case Update: Woman Who Killed Her Rapist Still Fighting for her Freedom
- Brittany Smith: Self-Defense Loses Another Court Battle