In the blink of an eye, North America was informed of Susan Smith’stragic loss of her two young boys. No one would have guessed that such aviolent crime could have occurred in a small town . Throughout the ordeal ,police began to see the flaws in Susan Smith’s story.
This lead to suspicions,causing the police to make Susan Smith their prime suspect. Days later, SusanSmith confessed to the hideous crime she committed, leaving the nation indisgust. The actions of Susan Smith, which were based on her background and theevents in question have left a profound social and legal impact on society’sviews of violent crimes.
Susan Smith lived what most would consider a normal life up to the timebefore the event concerning the murder of her two children. The onlyexceptional incident in her past was the suicide of her father when she waseight years old. Susan met her future spouse David Smith, at the age of nine-teen.The couple later went on to have two children, Michael and Alex. Shewas described as “well-known and well-liked” by her friends, neighbours andrelatives.
None of her friends or neighbours could have expected Susan Smith tocommit such a horrible crime.The event took place in a small town in Union, South Carolina. OnOctober 25th Susan Smith explained that she was “heading east on Highway 49 whenshe stopped at a red light at Monarch Mills about 9:15 p.m., and a man jumpedinto the passenger seat.
“She described the man “as a black male in his late20s to early 30s, wearing a plaid shirt, jeans and a toboggan-type hat.” Shesaid that the abductor held her at gun point and told her to drive. She drovenortheast of Union for about 4 miles. Then the man suddenly told her to stop thecar. Mrs. Smith said she asked if she should pull over, but the man said for herto stop in the middle of the road.
She claimed that she begged for the releaseof her two children, who were still strapped in the back seat, but it was to noavail. The town sent out thousands of volunteers to search through “over fivehundred square miles for the children.”The story later went national butthere was still no sign of the children or the attacker. The town Sheriff, JohnWells, with the help of an FBI computer system went after every lead that camein from psychics, crackpots and well-meaning citizens. Even helicopters withheat seeking devices were used to try and locate the children’s bodies.
BothSusan and her ex-husband also faced the cameras in an emotional cry for help.Police and prosecutors played a major role in uncovering holes in SusanSmith’s story of the abduction. As days passed Susan’s story left too manyunanswered questions. “No crimes had been reported in the area that night sowhy would a suspect be fleeing? Why would he take the children if he onlyneeded a car? If the stop light Susan stopped at uses sensors to detect othercars so as to determine when to flash a green or red light, how could she havestopped at a red light with no other cars around?”Also ,”Susan’s descriptionof the abductor was so ordinary that it was useless.””Marc Klass and JeanneBoylen came to Union to help the police with the investigation yet Susan wantednothing to do with them. ” The incident had so many holes in it that everyonestarted to get suspicious of the story.
The police began to wonder aboutSusan’s innocence even though nothing of the sort was said in public. Thepolice finally called Susan in for questioning and searched her home forfingerprints. She failed a lie detector test and the neighbours began to getsuspicious telling the police about a man she was recently seeing. A letterfrom Tom Fidley (the man she was seeing) was found telling Susan that he wantedto be with her , yet he was not ready for a ready made family.
“The pressureswere suddenly more than Susan could handle and she broke down under questioningand confessed after nine days.”On November 3rd, she told police the locationof the bodies.Divers went to John D Long Lake at 4:15pm on Thursday and theypulled the car from the mud. At 6:45pm it was confirmed that two bodies werefound in the back seat. Mrs.
Smith was arrested and charged with two counts ofmurder.The prosecution in the trial, Prosecutor Thomas Pope, sought whole-heartedly to convict Susan Smith to the full extent of the law in the murder ofher two children. “At one point during the trial he asked for the deathpenalty.”On July 22nd, 1995, a jury of nine men and three women swiftlyrejected the death penalty after only two and a half hours of deliberation. They decided that the death penalty was not appropriate for a “really disturbedperson.
“When it came to the trial her lawyer tried to argue she had “sufferedenough for drowning her two young sons, and that the jury should be lenient.” The request fell on deaf ears. Susan’s confession led to her sentencing to lifein prison. She will be eligible for parole in thirty years.The actions of Susan Smith will never be forgotten, especially by thosewho live in Union, South Carolina.
The unforgivable misdeeds of Smith have hadan enormous impact on this little town which citizen described as “a God-fearing, law-abiding place.”The whole town of Union bonded together to helpsupport Susan and the police during this difficult time. The citizens hungyellow ribbons on their doors as a sign of hope that the two little boys wouldsoon be found. Once Susan admitted to killing her sons the reaction was intenseand furious. People replaced their yellow ribbons with black ones for mourning,blue ones for boys and white ones for innocence. Flowers were left near thelake by mourners and many felt the need to hold their children for a whileduring this time.
Susan Smith fooled everyone, even her husband of three yearsand her family. Once Susan admitted her guilt, anger and hatred rose in thehearts of those who believed in her. Thousands everywhere had no idea howsomeone could be filled with so much despair as to step so far over the line ofright and wrong and murder her own two sons. At Susan’s bond hearing hundredsof people showed up to voice their opinions yelling murder!’ and baby killingbitch’ Out of anger also arose ugliness. Some people advocated “stringing herup right in the middle of the courthouse.”Many African Americans were alsovery upset at the fact that Smith labeled the abductor as a black man.
“Theactions of Susan Smith will never leave the hearts and minds of the citizens inUnion who once trusted her and sympathized with her.”This particular case did not cause changes in the law or the legalsystem. What it did do is awaken the people of the United States and Canada tothe reality that evil and deceit lives in our countries. Because of thisincident programs have now been opened throughout the United States and Canadato provide support and assistance for troubled families.The three principles of law could be seen in the case against SusanSmith. “Law as a legal concept” was illustrated in the case through the use ofthe jury to come out with a just decision concerning Susan Smith. “Law as alegal system” was also seen in the many agencies of our society used to upholdrights.
The police and the FBI got to the truth about what really happened, andarrested the person responsible. Finally “law as a set of rules” was shown inthis case because the court decided that Susan Smith broke one of the variousrules set by society and she must be punished for it.Susan Smith’s actions were based on countless actions throughout herlife. Traumatic experiences found in her background inevitably lead to theappalling crime. One thing that is certain is that it left a scar on society,and had an impact on their social and legal views.
This research assignment hasenriched my understanding of law as a legal concept, law as a legal system andlaw as a set of rules. It has shown me first hand the use of these threeconcepts in our world today.BibliographyAdler, Jerry. “Sins of the Mother” Newsweek, 14 November 1994.Brooke, Heathe. http://www.
shij.com/hj/smith/ninedays/1smith.htmlBrurn, Alex. “Susan Smith Review” Law and Society Review, 28 November 1994.Gibbs, Nancy. “Death and Deceit” Time, 14 November 1994.Grenm, Roy.
The Disgust of a Nation (New York: HEADLINE PUBLISHING 1995)Henderson, Gary, The Susan Smith Trial: Nine Days in Union (South Carolina:Herald Publishing 1996), p.193Reuter, A.P. “Abducted kids, mom accused of murder” Toronto Star, 9 November1994, news sec.
, p. C 26Schultz, Steven. http://www.shij.com/hj/smith/trial/depsend.html