Aaron Cody Smith, the former Montgomery police officer convicted of manslaughter, is seeking a new trial after the Alabama Supreme Court expressed concern over the effectiveness of Smith's counsel during his criminal trial in 2019.
In December 2022, the Court allowed Smith to file a "writ of certiorari," asking the Supreme Court to review a previous decision from the Court of Criminal Appeals. The Court quashed Smith's writ, but several justices suggested that Smith's counsel and subsequent conviction may have been questionable.
In the special opinion, Justice Jay Mitchell wrote that it was "difficult to understand how a reasonable, properly instructed jury could have convicted Smith."
Justice Tommy Bryan also entered a special opinion, claiming the omission of specific evidence was problematic in Smith's case and possibly raised a "serious question about the effectiveness of Smith's counsel."
On Thursday, Smith's new council filed a petition for relief with the Montgomery Circuit Court. Smith is seeking relief under Alabama's Rule 32. Rule 32 allows convicted criminals to receive post-conviction relief if more evidence or other issues in a case come to light post-trial.
"In this case, both trial and appellate counsel failed to provide Mr. Smith with constitutionally adequate representation as required by the both the United States and Alabama constitutions," the filing reads. "But for the errors committed by trial counsel, there is a reasonable probability that the outcome of Mr. Smith's trial would have been different. But for appellate counsel's error, there is a reasonable probability that Mr. Smith's conviction would have been overturned on appeal by the Court of Criminal Appels [sic] or the Alabama Supreme Court."
The brief claims that Smith's trial council failed in several ways, including failing to allow testimony on a police use-of-force expert, failing to object to "improper and prejudicial opinion evidence offered by the State" and "problematic jury instruction," and more.
Smith, a former officer with the Montgomery Police Department, was charged with murder after the on-the-job shooting of Greg Gunn.
The shooting occurred on Feb. 25, 2016, and Smith was arrested nearly a week later.
Smith's trial ended in November 2019 with a jury finding him guilty of a lesser charge of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison in January 2020.
Smith is currently incarcerated at the Limestone Correctional Facility.
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