BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — 107 organizations from across the United States have signed onto a petition asking for a re-sentencing hearing for Patrice Smith, the Buffalo woman serving a 25 years to life prison sentence for a 1999 murder conviction.
The organizations co-signed a letter to Erie County District Attorney John Flynn in May, asking for him to support an application that, if approved, would effectively allow for Smith to be released from prison after having already served 21 years.
Patrice Smith was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in 1999 for murdering 71-year old Robert Robinson when she was 16 years old. Back then, the alleged sexual relationship between Smith and Robinson was not explored deeply as a contributing factor to the murder. Since then, seismic advancements in society's understanding about the role played by domestic violence and sexual exploitation have opened the gates to seek justice for some sex abuse survivors who have been convicted of a crime.
Kate Mogulescu, Smith's attorney, has applied for a re-sentencing hearing for Smith under the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act - a newly-enacted law that "seeks to mitigate harsh punishments imposed upon eligible defendants whose crimes can be directly linked to a history of domestic violence," per the New York State website.
Catholic Charities, the International Institute of Buffalo, Citizen Action WNY, and the Erie County Coalition Against Family Violence are among the Buffalo-based organizations that have signed onto the letter to Flynn.
"She went in [to prison] as a teenager. She's now 37 years old. So I think for most people hearing that and understanding what that means for a survivor of abuse, it doesn't take much more persuading after that," Mogulescu said.
Despite the groundswell of support for the re-sentencing hearing, Flynn has opposed the application.
Judge Sheila DiTullio, the judge who sentenced Smith in 1999, will decide whether to approve the application for re-sentencing. A hearing is scheduled for June 4.