Killer cannot prove racist intent, court rules

MARCH 22 – HIGH POINT – A High Point man convicted of killing his wife in 2018 failed to prove that the prosecutor had racial motives for firing the only black jurors in his trial, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled.

Alvin Nathaniel Smith, 35, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in February 2020 for shooting 33-year-old Elizabeth L. Smith on May 7, 2018 in front of their two young children.

During jury selection, the prosecutor fired three potential jurors, including the only two black members of the jury pool.

Smith’s lawyer objected, but after hearing the case, the trial judge ruled that the prosecutor gave racially neutral reasons for the dismissal: that one of the jurors described the difficulties her jury work would create for her employer, and that the second juror “was throwing at me all the time evil look.”

This was the second time the North Carolina Court of Appeals heard the case.

For the first time in 2021, the court ruled that the trial judge correctly heard Smith’s attorney’s argument and the prosecutor’s counterargument, but did not pass the third step required by law – hearing evidence of intentional discrimination.

When the trial court held a new hearing on the matter in September 2021, the judge found that Smith’s attorney failed to provide sufficient evidence of intentional discrimination, writing that “the mere suspicion of a racial discrimination motive is not sufficient to sustain … a trial.”

The Court of Appeal agreed and upheld Smith’s conviction.

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