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New Hampshire high court dismisses Pamela Smart’s challenge to life sentence

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(NEW YORK) — The New Hampshire Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed Pamela Smart’s latest challenge to her life sentence, in a ruling that Smart told ABC felt like her last realistic shot at one day getting out of prison.


The high court wrote that they did not have the power of oversight over the governor and his executive council, who made the decision to reject Smart’s commutation petition last year. Any authority they would impose over the commutation process would, “violate the separation of powers doctrine,” they reasoned in Wednesday’s opinion.

Smart, who was convicted in 1991 at age 22 for convincing her teenage lover to kill her husband, is asking the state’s highest court to reverse the governor’s decision last year to deny her a commutation hearing.

With her appeals long lost, Smart’s only remaining chance to one day be released is if Gov. Chris Sununu, who is considering a run for president, and his executive council grant her a reduction of sentence, or a commutation.

Mark Sisti, who represented Smart over 32 years ago during her widely viewed televised trial, argued in court last month that the petition Smart filed for a hearing was not fairly considered.

“We don’t know if they even looked at one page of what we submitted,” Sisti argued to the panel of judges on Feb. 14, referring to the hundreds of letters of support and dozens of certificates of rehabilitation that Smart attached to her latest plea for mercy.

Sisti asked the judges to order Sununu and his council to once again consider Smart’s filing and to do so with the due process he alleged was was absent last year when Smart’s petition was rejected.

Only the governor can decide whether Smart goes free, but there is room for oversight in cases like Smart’s, Sisti argued.

“We have to break the chain of politics,” he added at the hearing.

Senior Assistant Attorney General of New Hampshire Laura Lombardi responded to his argument by saying that the supreme court does not have jurisdiction to decide any facet of a commutation petition, including whether the governor and his council erred last year when denying Smart a hearing.

Lombardi added that Smart has no legal right to a hearing, and that Smart had already received “all the justice to which she was entitled.”

Over her three decades behind bars, Smart has applied three times for a commutation. Each attempt has been unsuccessful and she is yet to win 15 minutes in front of the governor to make her case.

This is the first time a court has taken up a challenge to the repeated denials.

“It feels like the last straw, the last stand,” Smart told ABC News ahead of the oral argument in February. “If this doesn’t work out, what is there after this?”

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