After only about four hours of deliberation, an Orange County jury of eight women and four men this afternoon found Marvin Vernis Smith guilty of brutally murdering his wife in December 2005.
Smith, a multi-millionaire apartment building owner, and his high-priced defense lawyer, Jennifer Keller, showed no emotion as the court clerk read the verdict. Superior Court Judge Daniel McNerney is scheduled to punish Smith on Thursday, Dec. 20. He faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.
The trial—which pitted Keller against Michael F. Murray, the top prosecutor in the Orange County District Attorney's office—is featured in the current edition of the Weekly.
Until today, the case was a whodunnit. Keller claimed that a burglar broke into the Smith home, tortured Minnie Smith for the contents of a secret floor safe and then disappeared. She backed up her version by claiming that Marvin had both an alibi and an excuse: He was, she said, physically incapable of carrying out the vicious attack with a fireplace log turner because he'd undergone sensitive shoulder surgery six weeks earlier.
The jury didn't buy it. But Marvin Smith got something right. After the murder, he repeatedly told Detective Chris McShane that the killer had taken more than $200,000 worth of jewelry. Police eventually found all of the "stolen" jewelry in boxes wrapped in duct tape and in the trunk of Marvin's own Mercedes parked in an LA garage. That same duct tape had been used by the killer to wrap the victim's ankles at the crime scene.
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-- R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
UPDATE: Sentencing is set for March 21 2008.