Aaron Cody Smith, the former police officer, convicted of manslaughter, plans to seek post-conviction relief after the Alabama Supreme Court rejected his appeal.
The Supreme Court released a decision last Friday to quash Smith's appeal, but multiple judges criticized Smith's legal counsel and suggested he could have additional legal recourse.
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.
A series of appeal rejections landed Smith before the Alabama Supreme Court. The Court allowed Smith to file a "writ of certiorari," asking the Supreme Court to review the decision of 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.
There was no official opinion written. However, Justice Jay Mitchell wrote a special opinion, joined by Justice Michael Bolin. Justice Tommy Bryan concurred while entering a special opinion of his own.
Justices Will Sellers, Brady Mendheim and Sara Stewart voted in favor of quashing, while Justices Gregg Shaw and Alisa Wise recused themselves.
Mitchell seemed to be in disbelief at Smith's conviction and how the appeals court allowed it to stand.
"It is rare to read an appellate-court decision that simultaneously affirms a defendant's conviction while also describing as ''largely undisputed'' a factual record that seems more consistent with the defendant's innocence than his guilt. But the Court of Criminal Appeals' memorandum, in this case, does just that," Mitchell wrote.
Mitchell agreed to quash the appeal because Smith "failed to preserve any viable legal theories." However, he did suggest that Smith could receive additional relief. He also stated that he had doubts about the adequacy of Smith's counsel.
"[I]t is difficult to understand how a reasonable, properly instructed jury could have convicted Smith," Mitchell said.
"[I] have serious concerns about Smith's conviction and the adequacy of his counsel. I write to explain those concerns and to note that Smith may be able to seek post-conviction- relief under Rule 32."
Bryan's special opinion claimed that evidential omissions were problematic in Smith's case and possibly raised a "serious question about the effectiveness of Smith's counsel."
According to Ashley Smith, Cody's wife, Smith is looking at new counsel to take advantage of the Rule 32 suggestion.
Rule 32 allows convicted criminals to receive post-conviction relief if more evidence or other issues in a case come to light post-trial.
"He says he has never seen Supreme Court writing like that. It's just not something they would normally say. It's really frustrating because, in their opinion, they essentially say that it was a clear case of self-defense. They say they [don’t] understand how a reasonable, properly instructed jury could have convicted him based on the evidence. So, at least two of their opinions seem to be that they don't even know how [Cody] is in this situation, and the only thing they could sum up was that it had to be a representation issue. There were things they saw along the way it seemed like his representation failed in doing for him."
In a letter shared on the Facebook page "Justice for A.C. Smith," Cody Smith said he saw the opinion of the Supreme Court as the "beginning of the truth finally coming out."
"Today, at first glance, may look like a loss for us and a win for the prosecution," Cody Smith wrote. "That can't be farther from the truth. For the first time in 7 years, three judges have had the backbone to at least write an opinion, walk through the facts of the case, and acknowledge truth. A minor setback but make no mistake that these judge's opinions are just the beginning of truth finally coming out. Political agendas, emotion and flat-out lies will all come out. No amount of twisting words or trying to bend the law can change the truth of what actually happened."
Ashley Smith said she is trying to collect the funds needed for the Rule 32 process. She and Cody are also picking specialized representation to avoid any issues going forward.
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