Evidentiary Hearing Scheduled in Appeal of Oklahoma Child Abuse Conviction

The death of Kelsey Smith-Briggs in 2005 incited public outrage, with child welfare advocates calling for legislative reform and the girl's father suing the state of Oklahoma for over half a million dollars. 

Highly Public Oklahoma Child Abuse Cases

Over the last five years, the case has continued to be highly publicized even after the Oklahoma child abuse convictions of the girl's mother and stepfather, Raye Dawn Smith and Michael Lee Porter. Despite Kelsey's repeated brutal injuries, DHS, who had removed the girl from her mother's home, later returned her to the abusive household. 

After Kelsey's death, her mother and stepfather each blamed the other for the abuse.  While Porter was charged with first degree murder and child sex abuse, he pleaded guilty to enabling child abuse.  He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. 

Smith, Kelsey's mother, who was not charged with the girl's murder, was also convicted of enabling child abuse in Oklahoma and was sentenced to 27 years.  Raye Dawn Smith is appealing the conviction.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has scheduled an evidentiary hearing for September 1.  According to the court, witness statements in Smith's appeal "contain sufficient information to show at least a strong possibility that a juror received information outside of the courtroom." 

These witnesses report that a juror repeatedly told them about the case during the trial and that she admitted to watching media reports about the case  and visiting internet sites dedicated to Kelsey's memory. 

Smith's lawyer says that the trial was unjust due to juror misconduct, and that the juror's defiance of court orders to avoid media coverage of the story prejudiced the verdict. In any trial, all participants are responsible for ensuring justice is upheld.  This includes not only the Oklahoma defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges, but the jurors as well.  Under the justice system, all citizens have the right to a fair trial.  Juror misconduct can destroy the possibility of a fair judgment.