Gov. Jerry Brown today commuted the prison sentence of a woman convicted of shaking her baby grandson to death in Los Angeles County in 1997, citing an appeals court ruling that called her second-degree murder conviction a likely miscarriage of justice.
The commutation, Brown's first since taking office last year, follows a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals six years ago that overturned Shirley Ree Smith's conviction.
The court concluded there was insufficient evidence to convict Smith of shaking to death her grandson, Etzel Glass, and she has been free since. The U.S. Supreme Court in October, however, ordered Smith's conviction reinstated, finding the lower court had inappropriately substituted its judgment for that of a jury.
"When Ms. Smith was convicted, she was 37 years old and had no criminal record," Brown said in his commutation message. "Now, she is 51 years old and has been law-abiding since her release in 2006."
He said "significant doubts surround Ms. Smith's conviction" and that "in light of the unusual circumstances in this particular case, the length of time Ms. Smith has served in prison, and the evidence before me that Ms. Smith has been law-abiding since her release from prison, I conclude that reducing her sentence to time served is appropriate."