Remember Pamela Smart, do you?
Nearly 29 years ago, she had four boys killed by her husband. They're free now. She's not.
Before she does, the sound of Pamela Smart appears.
It comes down the Jail Corridor. Clattering boot heels on floor tiles. Rapidly traveling.
Here, she says, they call her "Tinker Bell" because, like a cartoon fairy, she flits from one location to another, always in a rush, always in motion, trying to forget that she has all the time in the world.
Years previous to O.J. In the first gavel-to-gavel broadcast of a murder trial in U.S. history, Simpson's case became a made-for-TV extravaganza. It was a seamy tale of lust and blood. The trial became an international phenomenon, so convincing that CourtTV aired it in 1991 and preempted daytime soap operas in favor of testimony about sexual obsession and betrayal by a local television station in New Hampshire, where the trial was held.
In a high security women's prison in New York, Smart lives with the echoes of the realities and misconceptions of those long-ago days. After a jury convicted her of using her sexuality to exploit her former teenage boyfriend to kill her husband, she was 23 when she was granted a mandatory sentence of life in jail without the possibility of parole.
With the Pamela Smarts of factually challenged tabloid headlines (no, she was not a schoolteacher) and fictional renderings, such as the chilling character she inspired for the fan favorite Nicole Kidman movie "To Die For," the Pamela Smart who has spent more years behind prison walls than beyond them can blur in the mind's eye.
"Smart, now 51, says on the phone one afternoon from prison, "It was convenient to cast me in the part of the femme fatale and leave it at that. Smart agreed to a series of phone calls and a videotaped prison interview with The Washington Post in which, as she mounts a fresh push to be freed from a life sentence, she gave previously unknown information and an intimate glimpse of her inner life.
Her situation is also interesting, resurfacing at a time when life-without-parole sentences are being reassessed in American history and, in hundreds of cases, erased by governors in states as politically diverse as Maryland, California and Louisiana. There are websites that are
For a woman who has been in jail so long that she has never used the Internet or an iPhone, committed to winning Smart's freedom and occasional tweetstorms. In support of her fervent claims of innocence, amateur sleuths pore over specifics of the case. To her legal advisors and her girlfriend, tipsters whisper hints. The Pamela Smart who says she was falsely convicted or the Pamela Smart who wants the world to accept her case that she was incarcerated long enough, even though a jury believed she was guilty. They believe in other Pamela Smarts.
Instead of a teenage boy, her critics see another seduction in motion, a trick to woo the public this time. In an interview, Paul Maggiotto, who prosecuted Smart's case and now is in private practice, calls Smart a "sociopath." But some of the most influential women in America came to her rescue, attracted in part by the fact that the young triggerman and his three male accomplices were all released from jail, while the woman who became the face of the case remained behind bars. Gloria Steinem, "Vagina Monologues" playwright Eve Ensler and Kate Millett, the pioneering author of "Sexual Politics," who visited Smart in jail before her death last year and firmly declared her innocent, are among those who have written to the state on her behalf.
Their appeals are included in a 695-page legal filing demanding that the Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, commute her sentence and make her eligible for parole. The office of the state attorney general is battling the request, which has been slowed down by procedural rules, arguing that she is undeserving of the "mercy and compassion" she seeks in a blistering response. Smart "places the blame everywhere but where it belongs, squarely on itself, for her crimes and her current predicament," the answer says.
The legal team of Smart hopes to persuade the state that her sentence is an instance of a judicial system out of line with current legal and ethical thinking. But her lawyers and supporters still tend to cast doubt on the outcome of Smart's trial, revisiting a curious spectacle that started with a horrific thing that happened on a street named Misty Morning Drive late one night in Derry, N.H.
Bedford Hills Life
Pamela Smart has been thinking a great deal about death. When attending memorial services for fellow inmates whose remains are bound to the field of prison pottery, where they bury the bodies of women no one wishes to claim, she thinks about it.
The thought is often triggered by a stray remark she hears as someone moves through what she calls "her room," the location where her cell actually is. But just as often, the thought of dying in jail uninvitedly pops into her mind.
"It's always in my brain," Smart said in a flat and emotionless voice one afternoon on the phone. "I'd rather be put to death than die of old age here."
One morning in 1993, she arrived at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, moved from the New Hampshire jail she'd occupied two years earlier after her arrest. The official line was "security reasons," but "New Hampshire wanted to sweep me under the rug," smart suspects and make it harder for relatives and lawyers to visit.
Smart has also indicated that because prisoners with identical sentences are incarcerated in New Hampshire, her former home state is unjust to her. A spokeswoman for the prison refused to comment on the reasons for her transfer. Smart is one of only four female inmates from New Hampshire incarcerated outside the county.
In the rolling hills north of New York City, in the middle of some of America's priciest real estate, the prison where Smart was sent is located. In the latest Showtime series "Escape at Dannemora," it has hosted a parade of the most infamous and well-known criminals of the world, including Joyce Mitchell, the civilian prison tailor-shop worker whose romantic entanglement with two inmates she helped conduct a brazen breakout was depicted. Amy Fisher, the teenager "Long Island Lolita," who was convicted of shooting h's wife, is among others.
Her eye socket was broken in an assault by two fellow inmates within a few years of Smart's move to Bedford Hills. She had to be surgically fitted with a plastic plate and she lost feeling on the left side of her face.
Smart claims she was allowed to wear her wedding ring at the New Hampshire jail. But she said it was not permitted when she came to Bedford Hills because it had a diamond setting. She gave it to her mother for her to keep. The ring meant something to her at that moment, three years after the murder of her husband, something she wanted to keep—it still does.
Why don't I? She said during a recent prison library interview. "I mean, I'm married anyway."
About the affair
In 1989, Pamela Wojas became Mrs. Gregory Smart. They met when she was visiting her family during a college break at a party in New Hampshire.
While finishing her degree in communications at Florida State University, her new beau moved to Florida to live with her. She interned at a local TV news station when she was not in class and hosted a show on the college radio station named "Metal Madness." She was also the promotions director of the station, she says, a gig that meant she distributed backstage passes for acts such as the Scorpions and Whitesnake.
"With everyone, I went backstage," Smart remembers. "With all the goods, I was that woman."
She aspired to be a reporter for television features, a la Barbara Walters, but after graduating, she could not find a decent-paying position in the field. After her mother alerted her to a job as a media services director for 11 schools in southeast New Hampshire, responsible for writing feel-good news stories and maintaining a video library, the couple moved back home.
She had a happy marriage for a time, Smart says. As a life insurance salesman, her husband took on a job. He got a dog called Haylen for her, a variation on the name of her favorite band, Van Halen. They moved close to his parents into a rented condominium, and her new mother-in-law helped her decorate it just like that. At the Trump casino in Atlantic City, there were weekend outings.
But they haven't been together for a year yet, says Smart, when her husband revealed to her that he had a one-night stand.
Smart says, "I thought that there was something wrong with me and I wasn't good enough."
She was working as a facilitator for a curriculum for school self-esteem at the time. She met a 15-year-old student volunteer named Billy Flynn via the program. She recalls Flynn, six years her junior, flattering her and says she "began to develop feelings for him eventually." I assumed that he still had feelings for me.
Conflicting accounts have been made of who seduced whom, but both Flynn and Smart have testified that they have become fans. Smart claims that sometime before his 16th birthday, they started having sex and that she slept with him more than five times over the course of about two months. She claims, all the while, her husband's admission colored her mind-set.
"I feel like I wouldn't have gotten involved with somebody else if that hadn't happened," she says.
She has asked herself in jail over and over again how she ended up having an affair.
I find answers occasionally," she said one day on the phone."
She says, "Sometimes I think I don't even understand my own self," other times she comes up blank.
Pamela Smart came home from a school meeting on May 1, 1990, six days before her first wedding anniversary, to find her 24-year-old husband dead and lying on the floor of their condominium puddling blood.
Smart was in a frenzied condition as the investigation progressed, alternating between depression and mania, according to her mother, Linda Wojas, in a recent interview. Wojas says she brought Smart to a mental health clinic that was residential. When both the mother and daughter hesitated, Wojas says, the facility was about to accept her.
'I didn't want to leave her there,' says Wojas. "I felt I could take care of her better. I believe I've made an awful mistake.
The next month, the case of the murder of Gregory Smart blew wide open. Pete Randall and Vance Lattime Jr., two of Billy Flynn's colleagues, told a classmate that they were involved in the killing.
Upon promising to comply in exchange for reduced sentences, they finally turned themselves in and pleaded guilty. They said that Lattime bought the bullets with the money Smart gave him. He shot Gregory Smart in the head when Randall was holding a knife in front of the victim's face, Flynn said.
The division in class was glaring. In the comic strip "Li'l Abner," the boys came from Seabrook, a working-class neighborhood that the cartoonist Al Capp said provided the inspiration for his rube-ish Appalachian characters. Smart was the daughter of a pilot from Delta Air Lines who rose from modest beginnings to create a comfortable life. Smart was the daughter of a pilot from Delta Air Lines.
The boys finally told police that Smart planned the killing down to the smallest detail after being told that they would be prosecuted as adults, leaving an entrance open so that they could ambush her husband when he came home, instructing them to make it look like a burglar and promising to pay them $500 each.
Looking back, says Wise, none of those things happened. But she makes it possible that Flynn may at least have perceived her words as a threat to kill her husband.
She says she told him, 'You know, I can't do this because I've got a husband. If he converted that into, you know, that as long as Gregg was around, he couldn't have me, then that's in his brain... That Bill will never have me for himself as long as Gregg was here.'
Smart almost made it easy for prosecutors to finger her as the culprit when Flynn was incarcerated. With Cecilia Pierce, she had a series of conversations that were recorded by police using a phone wiretap and body wire. She appears to be advising Pierce to lie to investigators on the recordings that will be played at Smart's trial the following spring.
"If you tell the truth, you're going to be an accessory to murder," Smart says, according to a prosecution transcript, in one exchange.
If you give me to the f-ing slammer, how good is it going to do? "She's asking.
Smart said the talks were a charade, that she was conducting her own private investigation and claiming to know more than she did about the case. That part of her story at the trial was corroborated by a friend of her husband.
Smart was arrested on Aug. 1, 1990.
The circus was about to commence.
"Let me tell you what we did to the, quote, fake media 28 years ago," Linda Wojas said on the phone one afternoon later.
When her trial began in 1991, Smart made a convincing focal character tailor-made for a media frenzy. She was often identified as a "schoolteacher," a misunderstanding that Smart believes played into a stereotype. Blond, petite and well-dressed. Any of the coverage noted that one of the hit songs was named "Hot for Teacher" by her favorite band, Van Halen.
Smart and her supporters also argue that the media has been too focused on her appearance. During the courtroom, the bows she carried in her hair became an object of curiosity.
Until the second day of deliberations, the jury was not sequestered. It came out later that one juror was making tape recordings of her reflections on the trial at night. Nor were the witnesses sequestered; Flynn and the other two boys were sheltered together, and often they were able to watch each other's testimony.
The attitude of Smart on the witness stand played into the tale that she was an ice princess. She shed no tears in court, but on the witness stand, her former boyfriend, Flynn, a big-eyed boy with a quintessential 1980s mullet haircut, screamed openly. Smart says, looking back, she'd been raised to suppress her feelings; stoicism was a virtue. Yet she admits she sobbed at night during the trial, when no one was watching.
The notion that Smart was an older woman who used her sexual wiles to enter a teenager who became obsessed with her to such an extent that he was prepared to kill for her was one of the basic underpinnings of the case. The prosecution referred to Flynn as a "virgin," and said he was having "his first sexual experience" in its closing statement. He's over his head in a way. And I presume she preferred it that way.
Smart argues that these arguments generated the perception that Flynn was a "innocent" she "deflowered." Her lawyers are seeking to cast doubt on the testimony of Flynn, alleging in her commutation request that they had discovered new proof that Flynn was not virgin until he met Smart, without providing any evidence.
Flynn, who at his parole hearing was encouraged by an official not to speak to the media after his release, refused to comment via his counsel.
In the ways of passion, Smart says she was the one who was inexperienced. Asked about her sexual past, she says in a phone interview that in high school she was "sexually active" with a boyfriend, but says that before meeting her future husband, she was too busy to date during college.
It was obvious that the saga was headed for Hollywood even as the trial was unfolding. A movie deal had been made by Pierce, who was a key witness against Smart.
And on the witness stand, the distinctions between what was happening in the real world and what was happening on television screens were blurring. He and Smart watched the movie "9 1⁄2 Weeks," Flynn testified, then reenacted a steamy sexy scene.
Smart testified, "I think he's having trouble remembering where reality started and the movie stopped."
Maggiotto wasn't buying any of this from his perch at the prosecution table. According to a recent interview, the evidence was overwhelming: "I just don't think she was that credible."
The jury convicted her on March 22, 1991, of witness tampering and conspiracy to commit murder and of being a first-degree murder accomplice. The accomplice sentence, under New Hampshire law, meant she would spend the remainder of her life in jail.
A juror wrote in a first-person article for the Boston Globe soon after the verdict was issued that he considered any suggestion that the decision was motivated by the "insulting" of the media. More recently, the 2014 HBO documentary, "Captivated: Pamela Smart's Trials," featured a juror who would have hung the jury if she had known that Smart would be sentenced to life in jail.
'I am so not at all that way'
One night in the mid 1990s, Pamela Smart settled inside the prison in Bedford Hills in a movie night chair. As always, she says, she didn't know what the movie was going to be like. As the opening scenes appeared on television, she felt a chill.
The movie was entitled "To Die For," starring Nicole Kidman as an ambition-crazed woman who has an affair with a teenager and then manipulates him to kill her husband.
It's almost like seeing a traffic crash and saying to yourself, 'Why am I seeing this?' "'" she remembers during an interview. "Later, the reality sinks in that it's actually believed by people because they saw it on TV."
The film, a critical hit shot in a mockumentary style, was based on a novel by Joyce Maynard of the same name. Suzanne Maretto's depiction of Kidman, the character Smart had influenced Smart so obviously, chafed.
Smart says, 'She described me as flaky, like an airhead. Ambitious to the degree that she was able to step on anybody who got in the way of her goals. She came across as quite narcissistic in the movie. So I'm not at all like that.
"For her, the film was the killer," says her academic counselor, Eleanor Pam. "The guards said to her, 'I saw it. I know what you've done."
According to Smart, one of the prison guards sexually assaulted her in 2003, and took pictures of her in lingerie, in the same poses she had hit in the pictures shown to the jury at her trial. She says that if she told someone, he then threatened to kill her relatives. The National Enquirer later released the photos. (The guard has died ever since.)
She received a master's degree in English literature from Mercy College the same year; it was her second, two years earlier, after receiving a master's degree in law from Southern California University for Professional Studies. She's working on her PhD in ministry now, she says.
I don't have time to be sad," says Smart, who serves as a fellow prisoners' grievance representative and HIV prevention counselor, and dreams of working in HIV prevention for the United Nations if she's ever released."
But at times, she says, she was nuts. Especially when Flynn, who got married while he was still in prison in June 2015, and Randall were released early after parole was granted. (In 2005, Raymond Fowler, who waited in the car the night of the murder, was paroled in 2003.) (Lattime, who supplied the gun and drove the getaway car, was paroled.)
She feels the wrath rising up inside on glorious sunny days.
"They are probably living the high life right now at the beach," she thinks to herself.
Smart's supporters were given an additional boost by the release of the four men involved in the killing for their claim that gender played a role in the case.
"The feminists got it right away," says Pam, an emeritus professor at the City University of New York who is the founder of a non-profit feminist history group, Veteran Feminists of America. "It was clear that she was the version of all the feminine villains in history in the 20th century."
The legendary feminist activist, Steinem, referenced the releases and called "an enormous injustice" Smart's sentence.
"Maynard wrote a letter to the governor's office, saying, "Whatever the degree to which my novel may have influenced Pamela Smart's chances of a fair parole hearing, I trust that you will do what you can to remedy the condition by granting her the same second chance given to the others involved in the case.
Maynard, who did not respond to numerous requests for this article to be interviewed, has long said that her book, written after the end of Smart's trial, was a work of fiction with a plot line inspired by what she'd read about Smart in the media.
Smart has previously pleaded for compassion. The state of New Hampshire refused her appeal for her sentence to be commuted in 2004.
Whether the prisoner has acknowledged guilt and shows remorse is a key in commutation cases. Smart considers this to be a sort of impossible riddle-she doesn't want to confess to a crime she doesn't say she has done. A complicated course is what she's left with, pleading her innocence, but at the same time making claims that a person who has accepted guilt might use. For example, citing research findings that support the claim that persons younger than 25 should not be sentenced to life in prison because their minds are not completely formed and that they should not be held accountable in the same way as older criminals for their acts.
The robust resistance of the attorney general to her new request emphasizes that she has still not acknowledged "full responsibility."
"The news media, the witnesses, the trial judge and the prosecutors have been criticized by Smart. As Associate Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin writes, her efforts to blame others for her imprisonment are a sign not only of her remorse, but her unwillingness to be rehabilitated.
Smart says she'd be lying if she confessed to orchestrating the murder of her husband, but she's true to parts of Strelzin's claim.
"It was the fault of the whole world for many years, not mine," she says. "I think I didn't want it to be my fault on some level, in my brain."
Now, she says, 'I feel guilty for the death of my husband. I say all of this is my fault when I think about it. Nothing would have happened if I had not made that original, awful decision[to have an affair].
Heart letters and mail hate
Smart's mother, Linda Wojas, says she walks three miles a day at her home on an island in New Hampshire, hoping that she will live long enough to see her daughter released.
My time has run out," says Wojas, who has just turned 77." "When this happened, I was 49."
The quest for clues has overwhelmed her.
"It makes my husband tired," she says.
"One late afternoon on the phone, she said: "I got a phone call from an informant today. Please, God, make this the thing that will turn this around.
She wrote a novel, but she was not able to find a publisher. She deals for a different agent now.
Pam, Smart's academic advisor and spokesperson, fends off individuals in New York who are attempting to insert themselves into the saga.
I have people who want to be players themselves. They want to repair it; they're getting in the way,' she says. "I don't know why it has the staying power it has in my life."
Her mailbox is full of letters. Some people, she says, have written that they hope Smart "rots in jail" and gets "every night gang-raped."
There were those who said, "I'm in love with her." Is it possible to introduce me? ”
Also, Smart gets emails. Every week, hundreds of them. She refers to anyone, she says, and to prove it, she shows the callus on her finger.
Many people who write to her give words of support, she says. She gets a marriage proposal sometimes.
One writer referred to her as "hot."
"I'm like, 'Come on, come on! "," she says. "I'm no longer so hot."