Pamela Smart: Innocent or (Still) Guilty?
After a quarter of a century in prison and the release of all others involved in the murder of her husband, Pamela Smart would like you to take one more look at her case.
It was the “trial of the century” years before O.J. Simpson tried to squeeze his big hands into those infamous blood-soaked gloves. Reporters came from as far away as Israel and lined up early to get a seat at the Rockingham County Superior Courthouse, which was then in Exeter. It seemed like everyone wanted to tell the lurid tale of the high school teacher who used sex to coerce her student into murdering her husband, Gregg Smart.
Pamela Smart was 22 when she seduced Billy Flynn and was not a teacher. She worked as media coordinator at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton and met Flynn, then 16, working on Project Self-Esteem, a drug awareness program. There was always the forbidden undercurrent of adultery and pedophilia in the case, says Smart supporter Dr. Eleanor Pam, who adds, “She has been wearing the scarlet letter ever since.”
It’s now a quarter century after Smart was convicted of orchestrating Gregg’s murder by Flynn and three friends at the Smarts’ rented Derry condo while she was 40 miles away at a school board meeting in Hampton. The boys — as they are still often described — have all been released from prison. They cut deals to reduce their time in prison by testifying against Smart. They have moved on with their lives. But many people still remember Billy Flynn’s tearful testimony, confessing how Smart told him he had to kill Gregg if he wanted to be with her, along with secret recordings of Smart’s own incriminating words that her student intern Cecelia Pierce made wearing a body wire.
Smart, now 49, still proclaims her innocence. After spending more than half of her lifetime in a maximum security women’s prison in Upstate New York, her most ardent supporters want to free her — no easy task. She is serving a life sentence without the chance for parole for being an accomplice to first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and witness tampering. Her mother Linda Wojas, along with Dr. Pam — the woman who helped Smart earn two master’s degrees behind bars — and Dr. Pam’s husband, lawyer Robert Juceam, are preparing yet another bid for Smart’s freedom.
Wojas is hoping to publish a book she has been writing for six years to set the record straight about her daughter and how she and the whole family have suffered because of justice denied. They hope a new governor and executive council will hold a hearing and commute Smart’s sentence so she can at least be released on parole.
Out Like Flynn
Billy Flynn, now 42, was not too hard to find. He briefly emerged from the upscale home on 3½ acres that he shares with his wife, Kelly, in Maine. He responded politely at first, saying he’s just not interested in speaking about the night he murdered Gregg Smart on May 1, 1990, in Derry. Or about his tearful witness-stand claim at age 16 that Pamela Smart made him do it. He’s courteous enough to tell a reporter he’s sorry, too, that she drove so far for nothing and apologizes during a long handshake for still wearing his work clothes on a sunny September early evening. He doesn’t say where he is working.
The Flynns married while Billy was in prison. Their meticulously kept home and yard is just down the street from a boarding school that also serves local day students.
Flynn, who is taller and appears physically stronger than in photos, was released on lifetime parole on June 4, 2015. He sports a mustache and goatee, and seems congenial until a camera comes out.
Flynn’s mood changes abruptly when his photo is snapped. He quickly retreats into the workshop in his garage, blocking the camera with his hand. “That was a real shitty thing to do,” Flynn says. “Get off my property, now.”
Flynn may have had in mind the words parole board member Leslie Mendenhall spoke at his parole hearing on March 12, 2015, warning him to avoid a media spectacle when he was released. When she learned he would be living in Maine, she gave some advice: “Do it in peace. Do it in quiet. Don’t let anybody know where you are. When the requests for interviews come in, ignore them.”
By most accounts — including that of Paul Maggiotto, the former assistant attorney general who prosecuted him — Flynn was truly remorseful for killing Gregg Smart in the foyer of the Derry condo Gregg shared with his wife. In fact, it was Flynn who stood out most in Maggiotto’s memory of the Smart trial.
“I thought the guy had incredible remorse,” Maggiotto says. “It was sort of like he had this reawakening all of a sudden … His testimony was extremely powerful.”
Maggiotto testified in favor of Flynn’s sentence reduction.
Smart’s mother Linda Wojas sees it differently. “Billy Flynn lied to save himself,” Wojas says.
While Maggiotto and the public were willing to forgive Flynn, there has been no such redemption for Pamela Smart, who became one of the most reviled convicted murderer in New Hampshire history.
Smart hopes to change the public’s perception of her as a remorseless killer, the “Ice Princess,” as she was dubbed by the press during her 1991 trial. In a phone interview from the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in Westchester County, New York, Smart asks that people be open to the possibility that they may have misjudged her.
“I would like people to think of me as a human being,” Smart says. “I’m not the caricature that people think, some evil person …”
Smart was 22 when Flynn pressed a .38-caliber revolver to Gregg’s head and pulled the trigger as his friend Patrick Randall held a knife to Gregg’s throat. Randall was also paroled on June 4, 2015.
The two boys who waited in the car that night, Vance Lattime Jr. and Raymond Fowler, were both paroled a decade ago.
Smart, who was far from the crime scene that night at a school board meeting in Hampton, continues to maintain her innocence.
“I’m no angel,” she says, admitting to having had a sexual relationship with Flynn. She insists she broke it off weeks before the murder and never asked Flynn to kill Gregg. “At the same time, I know I made a lot of mistakes along the way, and those mistakes contributed in some ways to everything that happened. But I am definitely innocent of the murder of my husband.”
After celebrating her 49th birthday in prison, Smart says she wants to go home: “I have a lot of goals, but, mostly, I just want to be there for my parents.” They are both healthy now, Smart says, but, as they age, she would like to be around to be the kind, selfless daughter they believe she has always been. “I don’t want to die here. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in here.”
Life in the maximum security prison is much harsher than most people realize, she says. Violence and verbal abuse are just a part of the daily routine.
“This isn’t ‘Orange is the New Black,’ not even close,” she says, adding she has never seen the popular Netflix series, but has read the book by that name about life in a minimum security federal prison for women.
“Haven’t I paid enough for this mistake?” Smart asks. “I don’t feel I should give my entire life for that.”
“To Live For”
Wojas has been fighting for her daughter’s life for 26 years. “Each day upon awakening, I immediately remember that our middle daughter, Pamela, is in prison and our son-in-law, Gregg, is dead,” she says.
Now, Wojas has written a book painstakingly detailing why she believes mistakes and wrongdoing by the judge, a frenzied press and teens who lied to save their futures determined her daughter’s fate, not the facts.
“If only this were a work of fiction, it would be so much easier to write,” Wojas writes in the book’s opening. “Today is August 1, 2016. It is the anniversary of the day our daughter, Pame, was arrested. It is also the day our lives changed forever.” (“Pame” is how Smart’s family spells her name.)
“It’s called ‘To Live For,’” Wojas says, enjoying the irony in the title. New Hampshire native Joyce Maynard wrote the novel “To Die For,” a fictionalized version of the murder story that, along with the movie based on the book, helped define Smart for a generation as a sexy, ruthless and ambitious killer. (See sidebar page 72.)
Maynard was interviewed in the 2014 HBO documentary “Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart” about the effect her novel might have had on perceptions of the case, and, last year, Maynard wrote to Gov. Maggie Hassan asking that Smart be released from prison.
Wojas says she got the title “To Live For” from her sister. “I added ‘A Mother’s Cry for Justice’ because that’s what it is, my cry for justice that Pame never received,” she says, blaming Judge Douglas Gray, who has since died. “He denied my daughter Pame her constitutional right to a fair trial,” Wojas says, alluding to the “media circus” that surrounded the trial.
“When the First Amendment collides with the Sixth Amendment, the integrity of the process is lost, and I feel like that’s what happened. You don’t invite the world into your courtroom and then not put in the safeguards for every defendant — for you, me and everyone. And, when that happened, everyone in New Hampshire lost, not just my daughter,” she says.
From a late-night phone call Wojas received during the trial from a man who said a juror was in a bar talking about the case, to allegations of ex-parte meetings between the judge and the jury, and debate in general over whether or not Flynn was a virgin when he started dating Smart, Wojas wants people to know the many ways in which she believes her daughter was cheated out of justice.
In fact, Flynn and his friend, Patrick Randall, were podmates, Wojas says, giving them ample time to get their stories straight. She says Flynn belittled jurors in letters sent to friends.
But the man who prosecuted Smart, former assistant attorney general Paul Maggiotto, disputes Wojas’ allegations and says many of them were thoroughly aired during the trial but failed to sway jurors.
“Those are all old arguments,” says Maggiotto, who is now in private practice in Concord. As to the seductive bikini photos: “My recollection is they were given to Billy Flynn by Pam Smart,” Maggiotto says. “Those got into the possession of Billy Flynn — whether Cecelia Pierce hand-delivered them or whether [Smart] gave them to Billy or left them on the table for Billy to see.”
Maggiotto says he has never had second thoughts about Smart’s guilt. He is also featured in the documentary “Captivated,” which raised questions about the fairness of Smart’s trial given the intense media surrounding it.
“I saw [‘Captivated’]. In fact, I had to order HBO for a week in order to see it,” he says, but he wasn’t impressed.
Wojas says the tapes the state secretly recorded between Smart and her then-student intern Cecelia Pierce are almost impossible to hear. But Maggiotto says the tapes were enhanced by an expert who used to work for the FBI. “We then gave a copy of the tapes and transcripts to the defense counsel for them to see whether they wanted to challenge the authenticity of the tapes and transcripts — they never did that,” Maggiotto says.
Instead, Smart defended herself by saying that she was doing her own investigation when she was talking to Cecelia Pierce.
“That was her whole schtick on cross-examination: ‘I was trying to do my own investigation and I didn’t want to go to the police until I was sure it was the boys,’ et cetera, et cetera,” Maggiotto says.
It was testimony from Flynn and Smart’s own words on tape that ended up convicting her, he says. “She says things on the tape to Cecelia like, ‘If you stay quiet, if the boys stay quiet, we’ll be fine. If you don’t, we’re going to go to jail for the rest of our lives.’”
He says he’s heard that Pam Smart has furthered her education and done good work in prison. “Bully for her,” he says, “but she has never once admitted her responsibility in this case. She’s never once taken responsibility for what she’s done to Billy Flynn.”
“I have no doubt about Pam Smart’s guilt. There’s no question about it in my mind,” Maggiotto says.
The intense media presence at the trial has been litigated again and again, he says. “The defense has never been able to establish jurors were exposed to media and, even if they had been exposed to media, that it had somehow influenced them.”
Jeremiah Zagar, the director of the documentary “Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart,” says he had only known of Smart through the movie “To Die For” before he started working on his film. But after working on it for more than four years, Zagar says, “There’s no way she’s guilty of what she was convicted of.”
Smart and her supporters hope people will finally give her a chance. They want people to see her as they do — as a generous, caring woman, one who works tirelessly behind bars to help tutor and encourage other inmates.
It’s not something new created during her time in prison, they say.
“It’s in her character,” says Dr. Pam, who is now Smart’s spokesperson but who also considers herself part of her family.
Smart helped save the life of a woman who was found hanging in prison, Wojas says, adding, “You wouldn’t believe how many people thank her when we visit.” Dr. Pam sees Smart as the little girl Wojas describes, who would read to nuns and once gave away her coat on the school bus to a child who needed it more than she did.
Tami Plyler Brouillette was a New Hampshire Union Leader correspondent when she covered the Smart trial. Brouillette later became executive editor/vice president of news at the Union Leader and is now digital strategist at M5 Marketing NH.
“There’s so much stuff about it being a media circus,” Brouillette says. “It never felt like that for the people covering the trial. I don’t know whether that’s because I was in it.” Some news outlets did focus on what Smart was wearing and gave a sensational slant to stories, she says, but, “it never felt crazy or that out of control.”
The exception was the day Cecelia Pierce (now Blake) testified. “She started running across the parking lot to her car with a gaggle of reporters chasing her,” Brouillette says. “That was the one point I was not really proud of being a reporter.”
Brouillette says it was different for the reporters working long hours to cover the Smart trial. She would arrive at the courthouse early to make sure she got a seat, then drop off film and finish writing her story by the 9 p.m. deadline. “This was before cell phones and the web,” she says.
Brouillette’s take after sitting through many hours of testimony and having interviewed Smart before her arrest: “It was not inconceivable to me that she’s not guilty from what I’ve seen. It’s not likely, but I never say never.”
Attorney Robert Juceam is compiling information and records to file a petition seeking to commute Smart’s sentence.
“Every citizen of New Hampshire has the right to ask the governor through the executive councilors for a change in the disposition of a criminal case,” Juceam says, noting that there was a great deal of one-sided publicity surrounding Smart’s trial and many errors in her case that never got reviewed.
Juceam did a background investigation and read the trial transcripts. He also knows Smart through his wife, Dr. Pam.
“Needless to say, I was convinced that this is a case that warranted review by the governor … both the conviction and the sentence,” Juceam says.
He says he will file the petition when he believes there is a fair shot at having the Executive Council hear Smart’s case. Smart’s prison record will be presented to the council. The families that have been affected will have the opportunity to be heard by the council too. “There will be nothing hidden in this process. We’re looking forward to that day, because nobody officially has ever asked the question: ‘Was the sentence fair?’”
One of Smart’s original defense attorneys, Mark Sisti of Concord, says he is confident that the truth will come out someday.
“We’ve been stating for decades now that we didn’t think it was a fair trial,” Sisti says. “We thought it was a joke the way the courtroom was managed, the fact our requests for jury sequestration were ignored until, quite frankly, it was too late.”
Sisti says he continues to share information with Smart’s family and supporters and helps any way he can.
“The reality of the case is the actual killers are now on the street. The people that actively planned the killing, people that actively executed the victim, that actually pulled the trigger, that fired the round into the skull of the deceased — they are out there walking around free,” says Sisti.
Smart was “miles and miles away from the scene of the crime, and she is basically burdened with life without parole,” Sisti says. “That in and of itself should indicate there is some inequity with regard to the law.”
Does he believe Smart is innocent?
“Yes, I am sure of that,” Sisti says.
Her Mother’s Book
Wojas thinks her book will change minds. “What I hope is that the book will turn the tide and people will then be able to say, ‘I was wrong. I drank the Kool-Aid, if you will. I believed everything I read,’” Wojas says.
“I’m hoping the book will pique the interest of one or more jurors who may decide they did the wrong thing and ask, ‘What can I do about it?’”
When Flynn cried on the witness stand, Wojas thinks he was crying not just because of what he did to Gregg, but for what he did to her daughter as well.
“He took Gregg’s life, and he took Pame’s so no one else could have her,” Wojas says.
Gregg’s brother Dean Smart could not be reached for comment, but, in the past, he has publicly said the family will not forgive Pamela Smart because she has never admitted her guilt. Smart published a book about his brother’s life and murder called “Skylights and Screen Doors.”
He often stated that Gregg was more than a brother; he was his best friend.
At Flynn’s March 12, 2015, parole board hearing in Concord, on his 41st birthday, Flynn spoke via telephone from a Maine prison. “I will always feel terrible about what happened 25 years ago,” he said. “Parole will not change that. The regret and responsibility I feel are a part of me and not conditional upon where I reside. Nothing I say here today will be a comfort to the Smart family, but, at the very least. I sincerely hope this will be the last time they will have to be publicly reminded of their grief.”
Gregg’s cousin, Val Fryatt, spoke at the hearing. “This year, we should be celebrating Gregg’s 50th birthday. Instead, we are approaching the 25th anniversary of his death,” Fryatt said, adding that so much of Gregg’s life was “should-have-beens.”
“Most importantly, Gregg should have been holding his mother’s hand when she took her last breath. Gregg should have been by his father’s side as he fought his courageous battle with cancer. Instead, they both left this world with their hearts broken in a million pieces,” Fryatt said.
Smart says she is a far different person at 49 than she was at 22.
“I had a relationship with Bill. Even though I never wanted him to and never asked him to kill Gregg, I still felt somehow responsible for Gregg’s death just because of my relationship with Bill,” Smart says. “Every day, I would say, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore,’ and the next day I was doing it again.”
She says she became scared when, a few weeks before Gregg was murdered, Flynn started saying things like, ‘If you don’t want to be with me, I’m going to tell Gregg.”
She says she decided to tell Gregg about the affair and he became very angry. Smart says Gregg had already cheated on her in their marriage, so they ultimately decided to forgive each other.
These days, Smart tries to focus on her prison job. She is working for a civilian program that promotes women’s health issues and teaches inmates about AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.
“I love my job. I really enjoy it,” says Smart, noting that her days are as filled as she can make them with church, Bible study, rehabilitation through the arts, mentoring inmates and studying in the law library.
The wedding photo of her and Gregg remains on her cell wall, dog-eared now and faded. Over the years, Smart has kept busy earning advanced degrees, one in law and the other in English literature.
The first book Dr. Pam assigned her in the English literature course was “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Smart hopes people will stop judging her for the affair that should have never happened.
“Is there no mercy and compassion in this state at all? For me, it seems like there is none,” Smart says. “I’m not saying that I deserve it. I’m saying that’s what I wish for.”