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Pamela Smart, serving life, accepts responsibility for her husband's 1990 killing for the first time

In a image taken from May 1, 2024 video, provided by Hard Working Movies, Pamela Smart makes a statement at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, N.Y. Smart, who is serving life in prison for plotting with her teenage student to have her husband killed in 1990, accepted full responsibility for his death for the first time in a videotaped statement released Tuesday, June 11, 2024, as part of her latest sentence reduction request. (Hard Working Movies via AP)

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Pamela Smart, who is serving life in prison for plotting with her teenage student to have her husband killed in 1990, accepted full responsibility for his death for the first time in a videotaped statement released Tuesday as part of her latest sentence reduction request.

Smart, 56, was a 22-year-old high school media coordinator when she began an affair with a 15-year-old boy who later fatally shot her husband, Gregory Smart, in Derry, New Hampshire. The shooter was freed in 2015 after serving a 25-year sentence. Though Pamela Smart denied knowledge of the plot, she was convicted of being an accomplice to first-degree murder and other crimes and sentenced to life without parole.

Smart has been incarcerated for nearly 34 years. In the videotaped statement, she said she began to “dig deeper into my own responsibility” through her experience in a writing group that “encouraged us to go beyond and to spaces that we didn't want to be in."

“For me, that was really hard, because going into those places, in those spaces is where I found myself responsible for something I desperately didn't want to be responsible for, my husband's murder,” she said, her voice quavering. “I had to acknowledge for the first time in my own mind and my own heart how responsible I was, because I had deflected blame all the time, I think, almost as if it was a coping mechanism, because the truth of being so responsible was very difficult for me.”

She asked to have an “honest conversation” with New Hampshire’s five-member Executive Council, which approves state contracts and appointees to the courts and state agencies, and with Gov. Chris Sununu. Smart has exhausted all of her judicial appeal options and has to go through the council for a sentence change. The council rejected her latest request, her third, in 2022 and Smart appealed to the state Supreme Court, which dismissed her petition last year.

Val Fryatt, a cousin of Gregory Smart, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Smart “danced around it” and accepted full responsibility “without admitting the facts around what made her 'fully responsible.’”

Fryatt noted that Smart didn’t mention her cousin’s name in the video, “not even once.”

Messages seeking comment on the petition and statement were sent to the council members, Sununu, and the attorney general’s office.

“New Hampshire’s process for commutation or pardon requests is fair and thorough," Sununu's office said in a statement. "Pamela Smart will be given the same opportunity to petition the Council for a hearing as any other individual.”

“I will look into it, it’s not on my radar screen as of yet,” Councilor Joseph Kenney responded in an email.

Smart is serving time at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County, New York. She has earned a doctorate in ministry and three master’s degrees behind bars. She has also tutored fellow inmates, been ordained as a minister and been part of an inmate liaison committee. She said she is remorseful and has been rehabilitated.

“I made excuses, dismissed my own involvement, and blamed everyone else but myself,” Smart wrote in her letter to Sununu. Because she wasn't there the night of the murder and didn't pull the trigger, she thought she wasn't responsible, saying she “became comfortable in my warped logic.”

She added, “I am the one to blame for his absence from this world.”

Smart's longtime lawyer, Mark Sisti, said the petition was filed last week.

“We're trying to impress upon the governor and council that we believe this is the time for them to actually listen to her,” he said. “If they have any questions, she's more than happy to answer any of the questions that they may have.”

Nearly 30 letters of support, many from people in the corrections system, were included in her petition.

“She is the true definition of a rehabilitated, improved and refined human being,” Edward Gibbs, a member of the York State Assembly, wrote in his letter, dated March 14.

The trial was a media circus and one of America’s first high-profile cases about a sexual affair between a school staff member and a student. Joyce Maynard wrote “To Die For” in 1992, drawing from the Smart case. That inspired a 1995 film of the same name, starring Nicole Kidman and Joaquin Phoenix. The killer, William Flynn, and three other teens cooperated with prosecutors. They have all since been released.

Flynn testified that Smart told him she needed her husband killed because she feared she would lose everything if they divorced. He said she threatened to break up with him if he didn’t kill Gregory Smart.

FILE - In this 2010 file image from video courtesy of WMUR television of Manchester, N.H., Pamela Smart is shown during an interview at the corrections facility, in Bedford Hills, N.Y. Smart, who is serving life in prison for plotting with her teenage student to have her husband killed in 1990, accepted full responsibility for his death for the first time in a videotaped statement released Tuesday, June 11, 2024, as part of her latest sentence reduction request. (WMUR Television via AP, File)
FILE - Pamela Smart answers questions from the defense in her murder conspiracy trial, March 18, 1991, in Rockingham County Superior Court in Exeter, N.H. Smart, who is serving life in prison for plotting with her teenage student to have her husband killed in 1990, accepted full responsibility for his death for the first time in a videotaped statement released Tuesday, June 11, 2024, as part of her latest sentence reduction request. (AP Photo/Jon Pierre Lasseigne, File)