Jack Harry Smith

Started by turboprinz, November 07, 2013, 07:10:07 AM

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Jack Harry Smith -- Will the Oldest Man on Texas' Death Row Die of Old Age Before He is Executed?
Posted on 10/15/2013

I was looking through the current list of inmates on Texas' death row, and scrolled all the way to the bottom of the page an clicked on the page for Jack Harry Smith, who -- at 76 years old -- is currently the oldest inmate on Texas death row (born in December of 1937).

Smith, who has been on Death Row in Texas since 1978 -- the same year that Hollywood film director Roman Polanski skipped bail to France after pleading guilty to charges of raping a 13-year-old girl -- was found guilty for the murder of Roy A. Deputter during a robbery in Pasadena, TX. Smith was 40 years old at the time, and had been out of prison for about a year (after serving just 17 years of a "life" sentence for robbery by assault in 1960.

Smith has spent all but about 2.5 years of his life in prison since 1955; when he was 18 years old, he was sentenced to a 7 year sentence for larceny and robbery by assault (paroled in 1958). How long has been Smith been in prison? When he was first incarcerated Dwight D. Eisenhower was President. James Dean died in a car crash just after Smith headed off to prison. Later that year, Rosa Park made history when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger.

In 2001, Smith, in an interview with the AP, complained:

"I feel that the system is waiting for me to pass away of old age," said Smith, who has had health problems in prison, including cancer. "I'm angry at the justice system, at the courts for wasting taxpayers' money for giving me this hospitality.

At this point, it looks like Smith's concerns will be borne out, and he will die from old age (and boredom, after spending 23 hours a day for the last 35 years locked up in a single-person cell) while in prison. Which is a damned shame -- a jury of his peers sentenced him to death, and the state of Texas has an obligation to honor their sentence. No matter how old the inmate or how long ago his crime.

Smith could set a couple of Death Row records if he were to be executed before his heart gives out. The longest an inmate has sat on Texas' death row and still been executed was David Lee Powell, who was executed in 2010 after sitting on death row for 31 years. Smith could break that record. The oldest inmate executed by Texas was William Chappell, who was executed in 2002 at the age of 66.

The last court record I could find on Smith's case was an opinion dated June 26, 2013, where the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Smith's petition for habeas relief. Which sounds positive, but apparently I've also read that his health is failing quickly, and he's having heart failure and has stopped taking his meds. Sources says its only a matter of time (that report was also from July of this year).

When Smith does finally head off to hell, Carl Buntion (born in March 1940, and a resident of death row since 1990) will take his place as the oldest person on death row. There are few people on the row more deserving of a date with a gurney than this cop killer, by the way.



Jack Harry Smith, taken about 5 years ago.
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

Henrik - Sweden

And now we have the answer - though in no way unexpected.

Jack Harry Smith has died of natural causes, aged 78. A life in crime. An adult life almost entirely spent in prisons. A life wasted.




Another one who has escaped his punishment through the ridiculous appeals process

This is why there should be a time limit and all appeals heard within this period.

Maybe execution dates should be set at the time of sentencing (say 2 years later for arguments sake). And all appeals must be submitted within the first 6 months after conviction with the only late ones being allowed appeals where there is new evidence PROVING innocence

Any late appeals are automatically dismissed and the courts could then have a strict process to deal with DP cases before the deadline.


Oldest inmate on death row buried without family, friends
May 1, 2016

HUNTSVILLE -- Jack Harry Smith spent most of his 78 years behind bars, much of it on death row, so it only seemed right that when the time came, he would spend eternity close to the world he knew best.

Smith, his body unclaimed by family or friend after he died earlier this month, was buried last week in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Joe Byrd Cemetery, joining more than 2,000 former prisoners who drew their last breaths in custody, some of them as far back as the late 1800s.

Prison chaplain David Collier said a few words before Smith and three others were placed in recently dug holes near the bottom of a gentle slope on Peckerwood Hill. Seven prison trustys were the sole mourners.

Until he passed on April 8, Smith was the oldest inmate alive on Texas' death row

Collier had the advantage of having known Smith when he served as chaplain of the Polunsky Unit where he was housed. But in truth, he didn't know all that much about the man he was burying.

"He was a Christian and of the Pentecostal faith," Collier said. "Jack always was talkative, unless he was having a bad day. We all have bad days. But he often wanted something to read and I'd take it over to him."

A stepsister had met with Collier briefly last Thursday morning at a nearby church, standard practice for inmates who are to be buried at state expense. However, she chose not to come to the cemetery. By custom in such cases, all the inmates to be buried are set side by side and given a brief collective prayer and send-off.

"What I say is really for the benefit of the living who are there," Collier said, referring to the group of trustys, most of whom will be released in the near future. "I remind them that they don't want to be buried here someday."

He touched each casket, recited each of the deceased's names and age and cause of death, then spoke to the men who had prepared the graves about the story of David and Bathsheba, reminding them that God does not forsake even those who have greatly sinned.

"If nothing else gives you heart, that should," Collier said. "There is nothing you can do that God will forsake you. He will never walk away -- only you can."

He turned away toward the top of the hill where a handful of relatives stood. If mourners show up, Collier always does right by them with a broader acknowledgment of the departed, and a longer prayer.

In the great majority of deaths of those in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice -- there were 432 in all units in 2015 -- relatives take the remains for private burial. But 100 or so a year are left with the agency to dispose of. Most end up buried at Joe Byrd, as has been the case for more than a century.

Smith entered death row in 1978 following his conviction for the killing of Roy Deputter during the robbery of a Pasadena convenience store. Before that, he had served 17 years of a life sentence received because of a robbery and assault.

He was paroled in 1977 but soon resumed his criminal ways. He was out of prison for only one year before the murder that earned him a death sentence.

But in an ironic twist, health problems complicated Smith's early years on death row, and he never got a date with the executioner. It was thought, instead, that he would die of natural causes.

A heart operation worked and he lingered on through years of appeals, though others connected to the case were not so lucky. Two of his lawyers and the judge overseeing the case died, putting Smith in limbo. His case essentially fell through the cracks as he grew older.

In 2001 and already into his 60s, Smith expressed anger that nothing was happening in his appeal.

"I feel that the system is waiting for me to pass away of old age," Smith said in an interview with the Associated Press. "I'm angry at the justice system, at the courts for wasting taxpayers' money, for giving me this hospitality."

It may have been a false anger. Collier suggested that Smith was pretty much resigned to his fate, knowing he would never go to the execution chamber. Although the Harris County District Attorney's office maintained that Smith's case was still active -- officially -- in truth both sides mostly were going through the motions.

Smith's last lawyer, David Dow, said in 2014 there was no way the DA's office would push for an execution date, knowing that even if it were successful, the sight of an octogenarian prisoner being wheeled into the death chamber would make for bad PR. And one of Smith's former prosecutors agreed. An accomplice had been given a life sentence. By sheer fortune, Smith had ended up with one, too.

Nobody seemed to mind all that much that he had cheated the hangman. Relatives of the victim were not clamoring for action. And Smith was far from the worst of death row's murderers. He would just keep getting older until the day arrived when he wouldn't.

His grave will be marked with a small, simple headstone bearing his name, prison ID number, and his date of death. Whether anyone ever will show up on Peckerwood Hill with flowers can't be known, but it's not likely. Most of the gravers here are bereft of any such loving remembrances.

Decades of erosion have stripped some of the headstones of all markings, and they no longer even carry the name of those whose remains lie below. More than most cemeteries, Joe Byrd is a place of the forgotten, and in many cases, the unmourned.

Jack Harry Smith, number 615, now rests among them.

I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

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