Pamela Smart turned 40 years old last month as she sat in jail for soliciting the murder of her insurance salesman husband Greg.
While her name may not sound familiar initially, Smart's story grabbed the nation's headlines in March 1991 as she stood trial in a New Hampshire courthouse on accusations that she coerced her 16-year-old high school lover Billy Flynn and three other teens to shoot and kill her husband.
The salacious details of the affair ignited a media frenzy, which included television movies and feature films, most famously Gus van Sant's "To Die For," starring Nicole Kidman.
A jury ultimately found Smart guilty and she was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Even some of Smart's toughest critics called the sentence harsh.
Proclaiming Her Innocence
Nearly two decades later, Smart maintains her innocence from a maximum security prison in New York.
"I never asked him to kill my husband, and I never told him to kill my husband," Smart said. "I never wanted him to kill my husband."
Yet part of Smart still feels some responsibility for her husband's death.
"It took me a long time to realize that I do have responsibility somewhere inside here," she said. "I did make a horrible decision. I made a bad choice. I made a selfish choice."
Smart has filed numerous appeals and lost. As she approaches midlife, she said it's difficult to hope she'll ever leave prison alive.
"I fear getting old in here and having to deal with the stresses inside here as an older person and dying in here alone," she said. "I would rather have the death penalty than have this sentence because I'd rather just have an end. This whole idea of no end is just sometimes too much to bear."
A Hard Life and Lost Dreams
For Smart, life behind bars hasn't been easy. In 1996, two fellow inmates severely beat her, leaving her with injuries that required a metal plate to be inserted into the left side of her face.
Smart said there also are emotional beatings. She said some days are filled with dark thoughts, and other times she thinks of the final moments of her husband's life.
"I think about what our life would have been like if he was still here. Would we have children," she questioned.
Smart said she still dreams of having a baby and even has a name picked out for a daughter.
"I always think I would name her Justice," she said. "For me it would be like, finally, obviously I would have to be released to have her. And for me that would be my justice."
A Hard Life and Lost Dreams
And though she may not have her Justice, she does have something that helps her get through her darkest days.
Since entering prison Smart has completed two master's degrees, one in law and one in English literature. Those studies have kept her focused.
And she said her favorite book is "The Scarlet Letter," which is the tale of a woman condemned for having an illicit affair.
"Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter' is a story that I could really relate to," Smart said. "I feel like I'm this modern day scarlet letter that I can't ever get rid of."
"I'll be forever punished by my own bad choices," she added.
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