The Alabama Criminal Court of Appeals has once again affirmed the death sentence of Jerry Jerome Smith.
Smith was convicted of capital murder in February 1998 for the murders of Willie Flournoy, Theresa Helms, and David Bennett. The three victims were killed by Smith in 1994 after Flournoy failed to pay a drug debt.
On October 19, 1996, at around 8:30 p.m., Smith had gone to Flournoy’s Dothan home to collect $1,500 owed to him for crack cocaine he had sold to the victim. When Flournoy told Smith that he didn’t have the money to pay him, but that he would have it later that night.
Smith left but returned later with his girlfriend. This time, he had a sawed-off .22 caliber rifle hidden under his shirt. When Flournoy told Smith that he still did not have the money he owed, Smith pulled out the rifle and shot him in the chest as he begged for his life.
Afterward, Smith turned the gun on the other two unarmed residents of the house. He shot Helms six times in the chest as she tried to run away. Bennett was shot once in the head as he sat in a chair.
Smith then tried to shoot Derrick Gross, but the rifle jammed. Smith and Gross struggled for the weapon and Smith was unable to regain control of it. While Smith attempted to retrieve a knife from his girlfriend, Gross was able to escape.
Smith left the crime scene and stashed the rifle with an associate before changing clothes and attempting to hide from law enforcement. He was arrested the following morning at his father’s home and confessed to the murders.
While at the county jail, Smith boasted to other inmates that he would beat the murder charges because of mental impairment. He also made statements to them that the murders were because of a drug debt that had not been paid and that he had intended to shoot everyone in the house so there were no witnesses.
During his trial, Smith never denied that he had shot the three victims. However, he said he had not meant to kill any of them. He said he was mentally impaired after binging on crack and alcohol.
Smith claimed he had just snapped because of the pressure he was under to collect the money he was owed so that he could pay a $27,000 debt to his drug supplier. According to Smith, his supplier was threatening to kill his mother if he didn’t pay what he owed. He said he was also angry because Flournoy had called his girlfriend offensive names.
This was Smith’s sixth appeal to try and overturn the original verdict and death sentence. The first five attempts took place between 2000-2018. Each time, Smith sought to have the original trial court’s verdict reversed and the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision deemed erroneous.
The basis for the repeated appeals has centered mostly around Smith’s claims that he is mentally challenged. Tests have shown his IQ is between 68-72 but it was concluded that he doesn’t meet the threshold required to deem a death sentence unconstitutional due to mental disability.
To successfully appeal, Smith would have had to prove that his death sentence was influenced by passion, prejudice, or some other arbitrary factor rather than determined by the seriousness of the crime committed.
Though Smith has won several new penalty hearings, the courts have continued to affirm Smith’s sentence and deem the penalty handed down suitable for the triple homicide he was found guilty of committing.
Smith is currently on death row at Holman Prison in Alabama. No execution date has yet been set.