Justice for Terry
Justice for Terry
Welcome to the Advocacy Page for Terry "FASS" Smith
Another "He Said/She Said" Story
For over 25 years, Terry "FASS" Smith has been confined in a Missouri prison after being wrongly convicted of murder. Smith's conviction was not because of compelling forensic evidence or DNA, but instead was based entirely on the allegations of questionable witnesses. None of the witnesses, however, testified that they actually saw the crime occur, but merely described what Smith has supposedly told them -- essentially a "He said, she said" story.
In 1987 a man named Larry Valentine was found shot to death in Kansas City, Missouri. During the investigation that followed, a crack addict known as "Pooky" told police that Smith claimed he had killed a guy named Valentine. For his cooperation, police gave Pooky $500 dollars with the promise of an additional $500 after he testified at Smith's trial. Based on Pooky's statement, Smith was arrested and charged with Valentine's murder -- however, when Pooky failed to appear, Smith's trial was cancelled, and he was released.
With his life returning to normal, Smith began dating a woman named Charlene, who was a cousin of Smith's friend, Carl Jr. The relationship between Smith and Charlene was tumultuous and often on and off. At one point, Charlene asked her cousin Carl Jr. why Smith had been in jail. Carl Jr. explained that Smith had been arrested based on the statement Pooky had made. After one too many arguments, Smith and Charlene broke up. Once they were no longer together, however, Charlene went to police claiming that Smith told her he had killed Valentine. Based on what Charlene told police, Smith was arrested -- again -- in 1993 for the murder of Valentine.
At Smith's trial, Charlene claimed that Smith told her he had "blown off" Valentine's face with a shotgun and wrapped his body in a blanket. Not only would Charlene later change her claims, but under the facts of the case there was no evidence whatsoever that the victim was killed with a shotgun. The prosecution also called another witness, Maurice Martin, to testify at Smith's trial. According to Martin, who was a friend of Valentine and his brother, he saw Smith and Valentine seated in a car together at 4pm in the afternoon before Valentine's body was found that night.
But Martin's testimony was unsupported by the facts because the medical evidence established rigor mortis was leaving Valentine's body when it was found. Based on how long it takes rigor mortis to leave the body, Valentine had already been killed by someone else when Martin supposedly saw Smith and his passenger earlier in the day. Furthermore, to the extent Martin also testified that he saw no blood on the passenger he allegedly saw with Smith, he effectively corroborated the fact at it could not have been Valentine, who would have been covered in blood because he had been shot at least 15 times, with three of those shots to the face.
Based on the questionable testimony that Charlene and Martin gave, Smith's first trial ended in a mistrial after jurors were unable to agree on his guilt. Notably, the members of the jury who were unconvinced by the evidence were black, while the balance of jurors who believed Smith was guilty were white.
Not to be defeated, the prosecutor geared up to retry Smith again. Once again, Charlene testified about what Smith had supposedly told her, but added that Smith had wrapped Valentine's body in a sheet rather than a blanket. When pressed about why she had changed her claims, Charlene conceded her testimony had been tainted when prosecutor told her about Valentine's body being found wrapped in a sheet. The prosecution even called Charlene's two sons, Arthur Kyle and Ontario McClain, as witnesses. Arthur, who was not called at Smith's first trial for reasons that are unclear, claimed that Smith admitted he had committed several unrelated murders. Because Smith was not on trial for other supposed murders, he was never charged with committing, the trial judge declared a mistrial that ended Smith's second trial.
Stumbling over themselves and Smith's right to be free from double jeopardy, the prosecution put Smith on trial a third time. At trial number three Charlene's other son, Ontario, testified that Smith allegedly showed him a newspaper article about a
murder in "Loose Park" and he claimed that Smith said he was the person
responsible for that murder. Unlike the story Ontario told jurors, however, the evidence alleged that Valentine's body was found in "Swope Park" after he had been killed elsewhere. In other words, nothing in the evidence established that Loose Park is where Valentine had been killed and his body found. Based on these facts, the prosecutor essentially relied on Ontario's testimony about another, unrelated murder to portray Smith as a deviant killer, which is precisely the same type of evidence that resulted in a mistrial at Smith's second trial.
To corroborate its theory of the case, the prosecution also called Mike Mann, who had served time with Smith in Leavenworth prison. According to Mann, who had much to gain by testifying for the prosecution, Smith denied killing Valentine but allegedly admitted he was involved in the murder of another person unrelated to the case in Missouri. Smith's third trial was also the first time the State inexplicably claimed to have recovered a fingerprint that supposedly matched Smith, despite testimony from the State's own expert that all prints were destroyed in 1987 because none of them matched Smith. The fingerprint evidence, which somehow did not surface until after both of Smith's prior trials, was allegedly found on a car which had been rented by Alfred Simm, who owned the house where Valentine was believed to have been killed. While the prosecution is ordinarily required to establish foundation for admission of fingerprint evidence, in Smith's case the trial judge allowed the State to present the fingerprint without having to establish when Smith supposedly imparted his print onto the car, which yielded no other physical evidence.
To establish Smith's supposed motive for killing Valentine, the prosecution again called Mr. Martin, who had testified as a State witness at Smith's first trial. This time, Martin claimed that Valentine had told him prior to his death how he had pulled a gun on Smith. Unimpressed with the shoestring Défense advanced by Smith's underwhelming public defender, and now armed with the evidence that Smith had supposedly killed others, had a motive for killing Valentine, and could be linked to the crime by the State's new phantom fingerprint, an all-white jury convicted Smith of Valentine's murder. Although another all-white panel, this time in the appellate court, would later rule that Martin's testimony was inadmissible as motive evidence, the Court of Appeals refused to reverse Smith's conviction because of the expense of a conviction that took three tries to obtain.
Smith is now working to correct his wrongful conviction and set a course to re-enter society as a productive citizen and patriot. If you would like to help advocate for Smith's case, please sign our Change.org petition or contact your local representative on his behalf.
The Family, Friends and Advocates for Terry Smith