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Smith v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

November 3, 2014

SMITH
v.
THE STATE

Murder. Forsyth Superior Court. Before Judge Dickinson.

Judgment affirmed.

McFarland & McFarland, Robert P. McFarland, Jr., for appellant.

Penny A. Penn, District Attorney, James A. Dunn, Assistant District Attorney, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Christian A. Fuller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

BENHAM, Justice. All the Justices concur.

OPINION

Page 329

Benham, Justice.

Appellant Jill Adaire Smith appeals her convictions for malice murder and other related crimes regarding the October 22, 2010, death of her husband Mike Smith in a house fire.[1] For reasons set forth below, we now affirm.

[296 Ga. 117] 1. Viewed in a light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence shows that on the night of the fire, Appellant invited co-defendant Peter Delaney over to her home. Before his arrival, appellant sent Delaney a text message, instructing him to buy three bottles of cheap red wine so that her husband would " just pass the f**k out." Delaney arrived with the wine as requested at about 8:00 p.m. The three adults drank and socialized that evening, while appellant's minor son played video games upstairs in his room. At some point, appellant decided to put the victim to bed because he was intoxicated. She took him upstairs to the master bedroom where he shed his clothes next to the bed, lay down, and went to sleep. According to statements appellant made to police, the victim was in bed at 9:58 p.m. and, when appellant left the room, none of the candles in the room were burning. Appellant retreated downstairs and went into the garage to smoke a cigarette. According to statements Delaney made to police, he was asleep on the couch in the living room. Sometime later, Appellant's son yelled downstairs to appellant that he smelled smoke. Appellant went upstairs to her son's room to investigate and a few minutes later the smoke alarms went off. Appellant instructed her son to get out of the house and go across the street to a neighbor's house. Appellant went to the master bedroom and opened the door at which point she said she saw smoke and flames. She told police that she saw the victim or his silhouette in the doorway of the master bathroom, that she called out to him and that he responded to her. Stating she believed the victim was coming out behind her, appellant left the house through the garage. On her way out of the house, she said she attempted to call 911 on the house phone, but it was not working. She said she gathered her

Page 330

purse to retrieve her cell phone out of it and used the cell phone to call 911 when she got outside the house. Appellant called 911 at approximately 10:49 p.m. Delaney told police that he awoke to appellant telling him there was a fire and he exited the house. When he got outside the house, he saw appellant and her son across the street in a neighbor's driveway.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, smoke and flames were shooting out of the windows of the master bedroom which was situated on the left side of the house above the garage. Firefighters reported that, although a lot of smoke and flames were emanating from the master bedroom, most of the actual fire was on the bed inside the room. The victim was located in the master bathroom in a [296 Ga. 118] " tornado position," and, although paramedics confirmed he was dead at the scene,[2] appellant was not told of his death until sometime later during her initial interview with police.

At the scene, Delaney, who witnesses testified smelled of alcohol and appeared to be intoxicated, approached a deputy sheriff and told him that the victim had committed suicide. When the county fire investigator arrived on the scene, she spoke to Delaney who told her that he and appellant were having an affair, that appellant and the victim were getting a divorce, and that he believed the victim had committed suicide. Delaney also told several civilian witnesses at the scene that the victim had committed suicide. When the county fire investigator spoke to appellant at the scene, appellant told her that Delaney was a friend of the victim and that she was not divorcing her husband. Because of the conflicting statements made by appellant and Delaney, they were asked to leave the scene and go to the sheriff's department where they could be interviewed separately.

Appellant was interviewed by police on the night of the fire and approximately seven other times over the course of approximately three months. During those multiple interviews she made inconsistent statements about what transpired the night of the fire. However, she never admitted to setting the fire either accidentally or intentionally. Although she initially denied any affair or sexual relationship with Delaney, she eventually admitted to engaging in oral sex with him. The evidence showed that Delaney presented authorities with text messages from appellant in which she led Delaney to believe she was in the process of divorcing the ...


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