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7/10
The Susan Smith Story
a_baron27 June 2014
This is a documentary about one of the most notorious and inexplicable crimes in modern American history. In October 1994, Susan Smith of Union, South Carolina reported that she had been carjacked at gunpoint by a black man who drove away with her sons in the back seat of the vehicle. She was hysterical, and initially was believed more or less uncritically, including by her estranged husband, the father of 3 year old Michael and 1 year old Alexander, but it didn't take long for cracks to appear in her story. Nine days after the alleged carjacking, she would lead the authorities to the lake where she had dumped the car with the boys still inside.

This recounting of that horror story has archive footage of Smith with her two sons and a number of interviews including with her lawyer, the prosecutor, and somewhat unusually the trial judge who had banned cameras from the courtroom in view of the OJ Simpson trial which was then running.

Little attention is paid to the racial aspect. There was no real doubt about Smith's guilt, but this was a capital case. The jury spared her life, and she will be eligible for parole in 2024.

This documentary has a shocking and tragic postscript involving a bizarre accident at the same spot where Smith murdered her sons.
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6/10
Complex look at complex case
evening115 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This episode of "American Justice," shown recently on the Biography channel, does a good job of explicating the multiplicity of factors underlying a notorious crime.

Many probably would like to believe that 23-year-old Susan Smith, of Union, S.C., was simply a diabolical child killer. However, she had a long history of mental-health problems that seemingly never were resolved. Her hugely wrong-headed "solution" to a painful breakup was appalling -- but so too, it appears, was the near-total lack of helpful guidance she received throughout her troubled life.

Susan was probably clinically depressed. Her father killed himself when she was six -- setting a dysfunctional example for a child in her formative years. The man who took his place, her stepfather, admitted to having abused her in a sexual relationship last acted-upon only three months before she strapped her sons into a car that she rolled into the John D. Long Lake.

Although Susan had once been psychiatrically hospitalized for suicidality, she would have benefited from ongoing therapeutic oversight. Didn't anyone in her world take notice of her extreme vulnerability?

With Bill Kurtis's intelligent narration, and the sensitive commentary of defense attorney David Bruck, a Death Row expert, this show does an excellent job of clarifying the many troubling facets of a tragic case.

I hope that shows like this can be a wake-up call for those in a position to help. As it has been said, "If it is to be, it is up to me."
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