Mar. 22—HIGH POINT — A High Point man convicted of killing his wife in 2018 failed to show that a prosecutor had racial motives for dismissing the only Black members of the jury pool at his trial, the N.C. Court of Appeals has ruled.
Alvin Nathanael Smith, 35, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in February 2020 in the May 7, 2018, shooting of Elizabeth L. Smith, 33, in the presence of their two young children.
During jury selection, the prosecutor dismissed three prospective jurors, including the only two Black members of the jury pool.
Smith’s attorney objected, but after a hearing the trial judge ruled that the prosecutor had given race-neutral reasons for the dismissals: that one of the jurors described a hardship that her jury service would place on her employer, and that the second juror “was giving me a mean look the whole time.”
This was the second time that the N.C. Court of Appeals has heard this case.
The first time, the court ruled in 2021 that the trial judge correctly heard the argument from Smith’s attorney and the counterargument from the prosecutor but failed the legally required third step of hearing evidence of purposeful discrimination.
When the trial court held a new hearing on the issue in September 2021, the judge found that Smith’s attorney failed to present sufficient evidence of purposeful discrimination, writing that “a mere suspicion of a racially discriminative motive is not sufficient to sustain a … challenge.”
The Court of Appeals agreed and let Smith’s conviction stand.