LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Governor Jerry Brown is considering granting clemency for a 51-year-old woman convicted of shaking her infant grandson to death.
Shirley Ree Smith has served a decade behind bars for a murder she says she did not commit and for the first time in 15 years, she is breaking her silence.
“This is terrible… I’m innocent. I didn’t do what they said I did. There is no way. No way,” said Smith, who has been fighting for her innocence for nearly two decades.
“I wrote over 200 letters. I have called. And you think no one will hear you and you think no one will hear you,” she said.
Her emotional journey began inside a Van Nuys complex on Roscoe and Sepulveda Place in 1996. Smith moved from Illinois to help care for her daughter’s four grandchildren.
While babysitting one night, Smith says she found her 7-week-old grandson lifeless. Paramedics said that it was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome but the coroner ruled that Smith had shaken the baby to death.
She was later convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life despite testimony from Smith and her only daughter that she would never harm the kids.
“There was no physical signs of the shaking. Well that is just not consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome medical literature,” said, Michael Brennan, Smith’s appellate attorney.
Smith spent 10 years at Frontera Women’s Prison in Chino.
In 2006, a federal appeals court ordered her released, finding that the coroner presented theories and not enough forensic evidence.
Then the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in, ruling this Fall that the appeals court overstepped its bounds and ruled that Smith would have to go back to prison.
“There’s still a fight because she is not because she’s not able to do what she wants to do, go where she wants to go without having to ask anybody,” said Yolanda Phagan, Smith’s granddaughter.
CBS2 talked to Smith’s daughter, Tomeka Fagan, by phone in Minnesota who said that she would like to see the Supreme Court overturn their previous decision.
“It’s really hard. It’s very hard. Prison is so horrible. It’s just so horrible. It becomes even more horrible when you don’t belong there,” Smith said.
Smith is expected to be re-incarcerated within the next few weeks if the Brown doesn’t act on her clemency petition.