COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Condemned killer Steven Smith‘s argument for mercy isn’t an easy one. Smith acknowledges he intended to sexually assault his girlfriend’s 6-month-old daughter but says he never intended to kill the baby.
The girl, Autumn Carter, of Mansfield, died because Smith was too drunk to realize his sexual assault was killing the child, Smith’s attorneys were telling the Ohio Parole Board on Tuesday. And Ohio law is clear, they say: a death sentence requires an intent to kill the victim.
“The evidence suggests that Autumn’s death was a horrible accident,” his attorneys, Joseph Wilhelm and Tyson Fleming, said in a written argument prepared for the board.
They continued: “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, 46, was never charged with sexual assault, meaning the jury’s only choice was to convict or acquit him of aggravated murder, his attorneys say.
The Richland County prosecutor said Smith continues to hide behind alcohol as an excuse, and calls Smith’s actions “the purposeful murder of a helpless baby girl.”
Prosecutor James Mayer told the board in his own written statement that the girl’s injuries are consistent with a homicide that contradicts Smith’s claim he didn’t intend to kill the girl.
“The horrific attack upon Autumn Carter showed much more than Smith’s stated purpose,” Mayer said.
Mayer said Monday he didn’t know why Smith wasn’t charged with rape, but said it wasn’t part of a trial strategy.
The attack happened early in the morning of Sept. 29, 1998, in the Mansfield apartment of the girl’s mother, Kaysha Frye, a woman Smith had been dating about six months.