Only weeks into her new term as Governor, the spokesperson for Gov. Maggie Hassan has made public declarations in the media which have resulted in the following headlines from two of New Hampshire’s major newspapers: NO PAROLE FOR PAMELA SMART (Portsmouth Herald) and NH GOV. HASSAN SAYS THERE’S NO CHANCE OF A PARDON FOR PAMELA SMART (Union Leader). The fact is that Pamela Smart has not currently requested or made application for a hearing or any other action involving parole, sentence reduction, clemency or pardon. Nevertheless, Gov. Hassan’s reported mindset and suggested course of official action regarding Ms. Smart reflects a pre-judgment for public consumption made before receiving and reading a single piece of paper stating the facts and basis for any such possible future requests. Worse, Gov. Hassan’s reported position on an application not yet made–or even written–preempts the statutory obligation and ability of the Executive Council to consider openly, and make impartial and independent recommendations to the Governor who retains the full power of veto over that body. Sadly, this continues the path and pattern of the previous governor, John Lynch, who did exactly the same thing by announcing to the press his decision to deny Pamela Smart’s petition although he had not yet received it or read a single word, and by refusing to let a 2005 application be scheduled for the Executive Counsel’s agenda.
As a result, a new generation of citizens in New Hampshire who might have looked at this case with fresh eyes is infected. Moreover, it re-poisons the older generations, sending a message that Pamela Smart is undeserving of the normal due process and protocols that every other citizen of the state is constitutionally accorded–a fair process after a review of the facts by open-minded, unbiased officials. In this instance, there isn’t even an effort to pretend or give an appearance of fairness in dealing with any application that may be made. Such prejudice against her seeking any relief on any basis is paraded publicly and without apparent awareness that in so doing there are violations, not only of her rights, but of the solemn obligations of office. Inevitably, these public pronouncements, like others repeated and perpetuated for more than two decades in the media, will rouse passions and have a chilling effect even when the only news really is that nothing has been filed and there was nothing presently to be considered.
Four boys were implicated in the murder of Gregg Smart. Two of them have been released. The other two, both of whom have admitted that they murdered Mr. Smart, are scheduled to be free in two years or possibly sooner. Pamela Smart was fifty miles away at the time, has expressed great loss and remorse of Gregg’s death and consistently denied any role as an accomplice to murder, directly or indirectly. She is currently serving a sentence of Life Without the Possibility of Parole. Unmasked bias, pre-judgment, premature public conclusions about a petition not even written or filed–all are toxic to a responsible and civilized pursuit of justice.