In 2014, an HBO documentary called – CAPTIVATED The Trials of Pamela Smart – was presented at several Film festivals where it received rave reviews.
The film examined the media circus that the trial of this young woman became in 1991, in a small town of New England. It was the first gavel to gavel televised trial in the US and Smart happened to be the perfect high profile prototype: an attractive young lady at the center of a saga involving sex, video and murder.
We could say that the ideal formula for litigation TV was born and it was cause for celebration for the media who took out the cigars to welcome the birth of this very lucrative practice.
It was the most covered trial in NH history and came right after the Persian Gulf War was winding down on CNN and people were hungry for more sensationalized programming. This scenario featured teenager William Flynn’s tearful account, it had an attractive and unemotional attractive young widow and some taped conversations you could hardly decipher, which should have not been allowed at trial. It also had parents pretty mad at presiding Judge Gray for allowing the trial to become such a media sensation.
Captivated attempts to take a look through the lens of impartiality at what really happened in the case of Greg Smart who was murdered by 16-year-old Bill Flynn and his 3 conspirators after he engaged in a sexual affair with his wife Pamela Smart.
The media and public at large kept referring to Pamela as a teacher who had an affair with her pupil, but it was never the case.
At the time, she was a media administrator at the SAU media center. They never talked about the fact that innocent little Billy was also having an affair with another woman in her 20s, and was called Bill by everyone.
They renamed him Billy in the media and said that he was 15 at the time to make him sound like a juvenile even if their relationship was not illegal. His criminal background was not presented at trial because of his age.
The movie director, Jeremiah Zagar, said about the case and Pamela Smart, ‘’It’s a trope’’. ‘’She fits into that trope. She is that Lady Macbeth, she is that Eve to that Adam.’’
“Ultimately, it’s about an intimate moment between a young woman and a young man, and we weren’t present at that moment,” he said. But, he believes he could show in his film that “there was a trial that seemed incredibly unfair, and incredibly influenced by the media.”
Zagar made the movie artificial-looking to remind viewers that he’s just a small part of the “storytelling apparatus.’’ He tried to illustrate how he cannot prove Smart’s guilt or innocence, but he can prove she received an unfair trial because of the media attention.
- She received a harsher sentence than the teenagers who admitted to actually murdering her husband and unlike them, she is not eligible for parole.
- Pamela Smart was found guilty because of a compelling narrative supported by images in the media.
- The media made a narrative about the narrative from a stolen image of Pamela Smart
- According to media and its viewers, Smart did not shy away from media attention, but they didn’t either.
- The novelist who wrote the book version of the movie To Die For confuses Pamela Smart with her main character. Nicole Kidman plays the role of Pamela in the film without having studied her or even met her.
- According to Pamela’s friends and family, the TV movie was also fiction. She was a hard working nerd and not a femme fatale. Helen Hunt simply played her character according to an image produced by media.
- The photos of Pamela in a bikini were shot by a girlfriend and she had to be coaxed into taking them for a modeling contest. They were never meant to entice the teenager.
- The teenagers were housed in the same prison pod so could have easily concocted their story to get a deal. The only one who was housed in a different cell block told a different tale, and to this day, is told in no uncertain terms by authorities not to talk about the case. They were caught laughing and high- fiving after testimony. When first caught, they denied her involvement.
- One of the jurors who recorded her thoughts every night (sic) thought Flynn’s testimony was disingenuous. By the way, she tried to sell the tapes to Smart’s attorney for $25,000.
- Cecilia Pierce who was wiretapped to entrap Smart signed a $100,000 option for the screen rights to her story. What was omitted from the narrative of the case is that Smart’s attorney had warned her of the fact that Cecilia would tape her and she willingly and stupidly talked to her to get her to spill some information.
- And to add insult to conspiracy, Pierce’s uncle was mysteriously released from prison after she accomplished this task. The tapes should have never been admitted as evidence. You could not hear properly what they said or at least, hear the words in context.
- Click here to read about the tapes and Smart’s state of mind at the time.
The image of Pamela Smart was created by the media and basically became a successful patent. It was an identity theft that ended up costing Smart a lot more than if she had been unknown. Without the wide coverage of her case, she probably would have received a lighter sentence and might even have been exonerated. We will never know.
That media persona followed her in prison where she was attacked by two inmates who believed she had snitched on their prison relationship, and she ended up with a fractured eye socket and other injuries that caused permanent damage.
The eye socket damage left her with no sensation on that side of her face and plastic surgery required installing a metal plate because of the horrible beating .
One guard took semi-nude photos of her that he sold to Playboy and she claimed to have been raped. I doubt anyone would have paid so much attention to her, if not from the publicity surrounding her case.
Smart received over $23,000 compensation for the nude photos and a huge chunk of it went to her attorney. She was well-respected in prison where she tutored other inmates. She has earned a Master’s Degree in the Science of Law and a Master’s of Arts while incarcerated.
She is now helping inmates who are struggling to cope with prison life.
The real Pamela Smart has emerged and has been exemplary so why wouldn’t she be allowed the possibility of parole? She was a young woman at the time and she didn’t pull the trigger. She is still hoping for a reconsideration of her sentence and the high-profile nature of her trial renders it impossible.
Her only infractions are minimal and sadly, prisons are known to give inmates bad ratings for menial things like rolled sleeves, having a non serrated plastic cake knife or other insignificant details to beef up their file.
Bill Flynn, who allegedly committed the murder is part of a work-release program and will be paroled in 2015.
His co-conspirator Patrick Randall was paroled in 2005, Vance Lattime will be eligible for release as early as June 2015 and Raymond Fowler was paroled in 2003, but sent back to prison in 2004 for violating his parole terms. He was paroled again in June 2005.
From all accounts, Pamela Smart was very responsible at work, but her level of emotional maturity was meager. The fact that her husband had been unfaithful may have triggered the affair with Bill Flynn who was showering her with the attention she craved.
After the murder of her husband, she was prescribed a very high dose of Prozac and looked and sounded like a skinny, hyper girl not really in control.
She should also get a chance, but her notoriety and the fact that she claims her innocence will keep her from being paroled. I don’t know if she was innocent or guilty, but her trial by media was totally unfair. The means do not always justify the ends. Click here to listen to a very informative podcast interview with Pamela’s mother.
Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart (2014)
“A superb example of the form” – Anthony Kaufman, SundanceNow
“A fascinating and haunting meditation on America’s flawed justice system” – VICE
Check Pamela Smart’s website