Alabama prisons too dangerous for former cop convicted of murder, lawyers argue
An attorney for A.C. Smith has filed a motion requesting a reconsideration of his client’s 14-year sentence citing the “unconstitutional conditions” in Alabama’s prisons which he said would be a violation of the former officer’s rights.
Dwight Richardson III, who filed a notice Sunday that he'd be representing Smith during the appeals process, also requested an appeal bond for his client.
Smith faced murder charges in the shooting death of Gregory Gunn, who Smith chased, tased and beat in a west Montgomery neighborhood in the early hours of Feb. 25, 2016, before he was fatally shot.
A Dale County jury in November ultimately found Smith guilty of manslaughter, a lesser charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.
Two months after the conviction came the sentencing. Retired Dale County Judge Philip McLauchlin, who presided over the trial, handed down a 14 year prison sentence.
Richardson filed a motion to reconsider Smith's sentence on the basis of an April report from the U.S. Department of Justice that outlined unsafe conditions at Alabama's prisons.
"Given that the United State Department of Justice has found that Alabama's prisons violate the 8th amendment to the United States Constitution, defendant asserts that sentencing him to imprisonment in unconstitutional conditions would be an especially egregious violation of his constitutional rights under the 8th and 14th amendments respectfully," Richardson wrote.
Richardson noted that Smith's status as a former police officer puts him at an enhanced risk in prison. He then requested the sentence be amended to a split with Smith serving less than three years imprisoned and the remainder on probation. Any term of imprisonment less than three years would qualify Smith to serve it in a county jail instead of a state prison.
"Granting Mr. Smith a 14 year split to serve three years in the Dale County Jail would serve the dual purpose of punishment to Mr. Smith, avoid placing Mr. Smith in unconstitutional conditions, ensure Mr. Smith's safety, and would have the added benefit of requiring a term of probation on Mr. Smith which would require for him to be supervised for a period of time upon completion of his sentence," Richardson wrote.
Serving a straight sentence would send Smith to prison, though it also makes him eligible for a bond while his appeal moves through the system. That decision is ultimately up to McLaughlin.
Richardson, in a motion for an appeal bond, points out that Smith had no prior criminal history before the manslaughter conviction, nor has he been a flight risk.
"Essentially, it was shown that the Defendant's did not act with intent, rather his conviction reflects that Defendant was overcome with the heat of passion," Richardson wrote in the motion. "To say that Defendant presents a danger to the community is a fallacy."