Orange County Homicide Prosecutor Wins U.S. Supreme Court Case
Greedy Smith: Having half of the $5 million estate he shared with wife wasn't enough
The twisting, turning, seemingly never-ending case of Marvin Smith--the philandering, multimillionaire, Cypress businessman who savagely murdered his wife in 2005 in the couple's bedroom and staged the bloody crime scene to look like a burglary gone wrong--ended today with the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the conviction.
The move by the nation's highest court was an energetic slap at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had upheld a federal district judge's ruling that Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Michael F. Murray tactically cheated Jennifer Keller, Smith's defense lawyer, during an emotional 2009 trial.
At issue was whether Murray, one of the region's most aggressive and accomplished homicide prosecutors, thwarted the defense by announcing late in the trial that jurors could convict Smith of murder by either believing he personally bludgeoned his 66-year-old wife, Minnie, or orchestrated the murder.
Though a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana upheld the righteousness of the jury-approved conviction and the California Supreme Court refused to tinker with that decison, a three-member, Ninth Circuit panel--judges Sidney R. Thomas, Andrew D. Hurwitz and Ralph R. Beistline--believed Murray blocked Smith's right to a fair trial.
Knowing Smith is a cold-blooded killer unworthy of ever walking free again, Tony Rackauckas' Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) urged the California Attorney General to fight the Ninth Circuit's conclusion.
Smith, now 76, will continue to serve his life sentence without the possibility for parole inside the California State Prison in Los Angeles.
To win total control over the couple's $5 million estate, the killer used a metal rod to crack his wife's skull around sunrise on Dec. 15, 2005, and then shamelessly, sexually desecrated the corpse for eventual arriving medics.
Evidence developed by Murray proved valuable items stolen from a safe in the house at the time of the killing had been located by Cypress police inside the trunk of a vehicle Smith kept parked in a Los Angeles garage.
Smith--who was shocked the cops found that car to search--wasn't just a killer; he was a cheapskate killer.
OC Weekly photo
Before the murder, Smith engaged in numerous, wild sexual affairs. His wife, on the other hand, was a church-going, sweet woman Smith had beaten in the past.
The Supreme Court of the United States took particular offense that the Ninth Circuit panel sought to circumvent its authority.
"We have emphasized, time and again, that [federal law] prohibits the federal courts of appeals from using their own precedent to [announce] that a particular constitutional principle is 'clearly established,'" the decision declares. "[To overturn Smith's conviction]," the Ninth Circuit pointed to no case of ours holding as much . . . None of our decisions that the Ninth Circuit cited addresses, even remotely, the specific question presented by this case. [Their] holding cannot be sustained."
Susan Kang Schroeder, OCDA chief of staff, acknowledged appreciation for the California Attorney General's office for standing behind the conviction and for the Supreme Court for taking the case.
"After nine years, Minnie Smith is finally getting justice," said Schroeder. "This was one of the most brutal crimes committed by the one person who should have protected her. Smith--the only person with the motive and opportunity to murder Minnie--got more than a fair trial and had excellent legal representation."
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