Duckler: From a mother’s standpoint, Pam Smart should be free

  • Linda Wojas has been fighting for her daughter Pamela Smart ever since Smart was convicted of being an accomplice to first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and witness tampering in the death of her husband Gregory Smart. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Linda Wojas has been fighting for her daughter Pamela Smart ever since Smart was convicted of being an accomplice to first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and witness tampering in the death of her husband Gregory Smart. Wojas believes to this day that her daughter was wrongly convicted. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Pamela Smart on cross-examination during her trial in 1991 for conspiring to kill her husband Gregory in their Derry condo. —File photo

  • Linda Wojas has been fighting for her daughter Pamela Smart ever since Smart was convicted of being an accomplice to first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and witness tampering in the death of her husband Gregory Smart. Wojas believes to this day that her daughter was wrongly convicted. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Linda Wojas has been fighting for her daughter Pamela Smart ever since Smart was convicted of being an accomplice to first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and witness tampering in the death of her husband. Wojas believes to this day that her daughter was wrongly convicted. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Pamela Smart after being convicted in 1991. She is currently serving time in West Chester, N.Y File photo

  • Pamela Smart on cross-examination during her trial 9n 1991 for conspiring to kill her husband Gregory in their Derry condo. —File photo

  • Pamela Smart outside her former condo she shared with her husband Gregory at the walk through with the jury during her trial. She was later convicted and is serving her lifetime conviction in Bedford, N.Y. correctional facility. —File photo

  • A wedding photo of Pamela and Gregory Smart. File photo

Monitor columnist
Published: 9/7/2019 9:44:26 PM

It’s time, Linda Wojas said.

Long past time, in fact.

Time for our justice system to reward good behavior in prison, to stop using prison as a tool for revenge, rather than one of rehabilitation. Time for the public to come to grips with the fact that Wojas’s daughter didn’t pull the trigger, and in fact wasn’t even at the murder scene that day in 1990.

Time, after nearly 30 years, to let Pam Smart go. The former media services consultant at Winnacuunet High School, now 52, has paid her dues, and then some. Her trial was covered nationwide.

“I can’t even believe this happened,” Wojas told me recently. “I wake up each morning and think that. I say to myself, ‘Come on, God, I’m getting old and I’m prepared to die, but please don’t take me until she’s free.’ ”

She’s 78. We met at a restaurant in Tilton and shared an appetizer plate of cheese sticks, wings and celery. She unzipped a leather briefcase and spread paperwork on the table. Letters, court documents, photos.

Previously, Wojas had sent her thoughts and feelings – part of an envelope-stuffed packet that included Smart’s educational achievements while incarcerated – to several media outlets, hoping to keep this issue alive.

No one responded, but we liked the story line about the loyalty of a mother, defending her daughter while the court of public opinion says Wojas is wasting her time, that Smart got exactly what she deserved.

She was convicted of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and witness tampering for manipulating her high-school lover and three of his friends to kill her husband in their Derry condo. She received a life sentence, without the chance of parole. She’s doing her time at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County, N.Y.

Meanwhile, Wojas continues her freedom fight, maintaining that Smart should be released. Not only because she’s earned two master’s degrees and has an impressive list of volunteer work. But also because she wasn’t involved in the murder, period.

That’s why Wojas was thrilled to see me that morning, because she continues to seek publicity, a megaphone with which to scream from the rooftops that Smart did nothing wrong, beyond the affair she had with Billy Flynn, the shooter who was 15 at the time of their relationship. His testimony claiming his lover had set the whole thing up was damning.

“Based on everything they’ve read, people think she’s guilty,” Wojas said. “Did she ask those kids to do it? There’s nothing in her character that would lead her to do this.”

We take this with a grain of salt, of course. Most people think Smart is a conniving killer. Readers of this column are no doubt rolling their eyes, shaking their heads, wondering how this woman can defend her daughter when the evidence was overwhelming.

But her fight continues.

“My friends all say, ‘How do you do it; you should be nuts by now,’ ” Wojas said. “Sometimes I think I went nuts and no one told me yet.”

She laughed at that comment, and at other things that were said during our conversation. She also cried. She got mad. She buried her face in her hands.

But the dialogue between us lasted for 1½ hours, and Wojas asked more than once if I had heard enough.

“Are you tired of me yet?” she said. “Are you sick of me yet?”

Lots of people are. They don’t want to hear that Smart is innocent. They heard the secret recordings of Smart talking to a wired Cecelia Pierce, a Winnacunnet student whom Smart had befriended. Pierce knew ahead of time about the plot to kill Gregg Smart.

In the tape, Smart said, “They’re [Derry Police] going to try and get you to talk and to confess and you know they’re going to say, ‘We know you know,’ and all that, try and make you nervous, but all you have to do is just maintain the same story, that’s it, that you don’t know and that’s it.”

To the justice system and the public, that was a smoking gun. To Wojas, however, there is no direct connection in that tape linking Smart to the murder, no specific words that definitively state an attempt to cover up a murder was bubbling to the surface.

The tape was crackly and, in many spots, inaudible, Wojas noted. The kids got plea deals and are all out of prison, and Pierce was given immunity. Of course they turned on Smart, blaming her for masterminding the whole thing.

And, Wojas said, there’s more proof to suggest Smart was railroaded. The jury wasn’t sequestered. The trial wasn’t moved. Flynn was mad because Smart had tried to end their relationship more than once. That’s why he went after Gregg, Wojas believes.

Eventually, Wojas cited tangential facts, using them to bolster her case. For example, she mentioned Paul Maggiotto, the prosecutor in the Smart trial, was publicly censured for sleeping with a client.

I told Wojas information like that gave the appearance of grasping for straws, that Maggiotto’s unethical behavior had nothing to do with Smart’s guilt or innocence.

She also noted that her letters to the governor and Executive Council – the players who can set Smart free – had sought a “commutation” of Smart’s sentence, but responses said her request for a “pardon” had been denied.

“I was never asking for a pardon,” Wojas said, adding that her requests have been turned down, in part, because supporting Smart is a deal-breaker for anyone running for office.

“Political suicide,” Wojas told me.

Her most compelling argument might connect to Article 18 of the New Hampshire Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which states, “The true design of all punishment is to rehabilitate, not exterminate mankind.”

To Wojas, her daughter is being exterminated. Her three-page resume, mailed to us in that thick packet, makes a good case that Smart has, in fact, changed for the better.

From tutoring inmates, to post-graduate degrees, to participation in a Doctorate program in Bible studies, Wojas says her daughter’s accomplishments justify her release, and she’s leaning heavily on Article 18 to reach that goal.

In a letter to Wojas, Bedford inmate Bobbi Cobaugh wrote, “Pam continues to be a beacon of wisdom, courage, and love to me and so many women at Bedford.”

Once, Wojas had her doubts about her daughter’s innocence, telling me, “I entertained the possibility. I bought what Billy Flynn said (during the trial).”

Not anymore. Smart convinced her mother that Flynn was a chameleon, a good actor, a person who could change color at any moment to fool people.

Yet with all the quotes and letters and TV appearances (Wojas was on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2010), is anyone really listening? Does anyone care? Does anyone really believe the mother of a convicted murderer is impartial?

“Do you think this is fun?” Wojas said. “People will be pissed off a little, maybe, for talking like this to the newspaper, but let them write their blurbs in the paper.”

She’s heard and read the criticism. That her daughter is the devil. That Wojas cannot possibly believe what she’s saying. Smart, after all, is her daughter, and in these circumstances, what’s a mother to do? What’s she supposed to say?

Meanwhile, Wojas and her husband visit Smart, sometimes on their way to their winter home in Florida. Then they visit on their way back here, to their home on Lake Winnisquam.

Wojas went to the Bedford prison for a three-day visit in May. She showed me a picture of them, posing in a kitchen in which Smart has access.

At our meeting, Wojas wore a necklace with a heart pendant, given to her by Pam. It has five stones and is split down the middle, the symbol of a broken heart that can be mended in one way and one way only.

“The truth is, my daughter is innocent,” Wojas said. “I feel hopeless many, many times, but that doesn’t mean I’m not hopeful.

“I am.”




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