Frye was awakened after 3 a.m. by a naked Smith, who placed Autumn beside her in bed, according to records prepared for the parole board hearing. Frye realized the girl wasn’t breathing, told Smith he’d killed her, then ran to a neighbor’s house for help.
Smith, known to consume as many as 12 beers a day, had had several beers earlier in the evening and had a blood-alcohol content of .123 — well above the legal limit for drivers — when he was tested almost eight hours later, at 11 a.m., records show.
Smith had unsuccessfully tried to have sex with his girlfriend the evening before the attack, according to records. The prosecutor argued that Smith’s assault of the girl was revenge for Smith’s failure to perform with Frye.
Smith’s attorneys dispute this, saying the girlfriend was not upset with Smith.
Prosecutors presented evidence at trial that Smith’s attack lasted as long as 30 minutes, during which time Smith beat the girl to death.
Expert witnesses for Smith conclude he may have accidentally suffocated the girl within three to five minutes while he lay on top of her, according to Smith’s clemency petition.
Smith’s attorneys have an uphill battle in their argument because of the “moral repugnancy” surrounding the claim of partial innocence, said Doug Berman, an Ohio State University law professor and death penalty expert.
“But if the lawyers for this defendant can legitimately assert that the evidence doesn’t show or support that this was an intentional killing, not only is it appropriate to bring this up at clemency, I think they’re obliged, representing their client appropriately, to stress this point,” Berman said.
If executed, Smith would become the 51st inmate put to death in Ohio since the state resumed executions in 1999. The state has enough of its lethal injection drug, pentobarbital, to execute Smith and two other inmates before the supply expires. Eight more inmates are scheduled to die from November through mid-2015.