The New Hampshire Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed Pamela Smart’s latest challenge to her life sentence in prison.
The high court wrote that it does not have oversight power to direct the governor and his executive council to reconsider Smart's request for a sentence reduction, which was denied last year. Any authority the court would impose over the commutation process would “violate the separation of powers doctrine,” it reasoned in the ruling on Wednesday.
Smart told ABC last month that the court's decision would likely be her last chance at getting out of prison.
"We are very saddened that our supreme court side-stepped the main issue in this matter and has given the thumbs up to the governor and council to avoid doing their mandatory constitutional job," Mark Sisti, Smart's attorney, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Smart, who was convicted in 1991 at age 22 for convincing her teenage lover to kill her husband, asked the state’s highest court last year to reverse Gov. Chris Sununu's decision to deny her a commutation hearing.
Now, her only chance at release is if the New Hampshire executive branch grants her a reduction of sentence, or a commutation.
Sisti, who represented Smart about 32 years ago during her widely viewed televised trial, argued in court last month that the petition Smart filed for a hearing was not fairly considered.
“We don’t know if they even looked at one page of what we submitted,” Sisti argued to the panel of judges on Feb. 14, referring to the hundreds of letters of support and dozens of certificates of rehabilitation that Smart attached to her latest plea for mercy.
Sisti asked the judges to order Sununu, who is considering a run for president, and his council to once again consider Smart’s filing and to do so with the due process he alleged was absent last year when Smart’s petition was rejected.
Only the governor can decide whether Smart goes free, but there is room for oversight in cases like Smart’s, Sisti argued.
“We have to break the chain of politics,” he added at the hearing.
The court agreed on Wednesday with Laura Lombardi, a lawyer in the state's attorney general's office, who said the New Hampshire Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to decide any facet of a commutation petition, including how the governor and his council can go about considering one.
Lombardi added that Smart has no legal right to a hearing, and that she had already received “all the justice to which she was entitled.”
Over her three decades behind bars, Smart has applied three times for a commutation. All of her applications were denied.
"We will not stop our attempts to free Pam Smart," Sisti added in his statement on Wednesday. "At some point, either this governor and council or a future governor and council will have the backbone to sit across from Pam, eye-to-eye, and truly hold a legitimate review of her outstanding achievements, rehabilitation, and redemption."