A man who killed his girlfriend's 6-month-old baby girl is asking for mercy. He says he doesn't deserve the death penalty he's been handed. His reasoning? He didn't mean to kill her. He only meant to rape her. While the vast majority of us are going to read that sentence and not only want to vomit, but kill Steven with our bare hands, technically, the condemned man has a point. The death penalty is reserved for murder with intent. And this man -- as disgusting and horrid as his crime was -- claims killing the baby was never his intent.
So what was Steven Smith's intent? In 1998, Smith was at the apartment of his girlfriend, Kaysha Frye. Also in the house was Kaysha's 6-month-old daughter, Autumn.
Around 3 a.m., Kaysha said that Steven came into her bedroom where she was asleep and placed Autumn next to her. Kaysha could tell by the way her baby's head flopped around that there was something terribly wrong with her. She looked up and saw Steven naked. She screamed that Steven had killed her baby and ran to a neighbor's house for help.
Accounts differ as to exactly what happened that night that led to the girl's death, but one thing was clear. Steven had raped a 6-month-old girl and doesn't deny that. Experts think the poor little girl either died from being beaten, or died from suffocation from when he lay on top of her. In fact, that barbaric detail is part of Steven's clemency petition -- his lawyers say he didn't mean to kill her, "only" to rape her, and that she accidentally died in the process and he was too drunk to know that he was killing her.
Does this sound like an excuse -- and probably the worst excuse ever in history? Of course it does. But Ohio law is clear that someone can only be put to death when there is clear intent to kill. So Steven may have a case.
However, let's look at the big picture. Steven decided to perpetrate a horrific and heinous act against a helpless baby. When there is a bar of "moral repugnancy" with a crime, the technicalities of whether or not there was clear intent can be overlooked. In other words, if in the midst of a vicious, brutal, and horrific crime you happen to kill someone that you "only" meant to rape, torture, or bring to the brink of the death -- you can't just go, "Whoops, I didn't mean that!"
This little girl's last moments on this earth were moments no child should ever had had to endure. He showed her no mercy. He doesn't deserve any either.
Do you think there should always be clear intent to kill in death penalty cases?
Image via Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Corrections