Attempted murder verdict overturned

An Oak Harbor man convicted of second-degree attempted murder in 1997 for shooting a drug-dealing buddy has had his Island County conviction overturned in federal court. But Chad Smith won’t be getting out of Walla Walla State Penitentiary any time soon.

Smith’s appeal, which was granted by the federal court, is being challenged by the state Attorney General’s office, which has filed its own appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Smith’s appeal, one of many he has filed over the years, was based on the argument that the jury was prejudiced because they saw him in shackles before the verdict was officially pronounced.

Island County Prosecuting Attorney Greg Banks called Smith “a prolific writer of appeals.”

The case started in April 1997 when Smith stole a gun safe containing seven guns from his stepfather. He gave a 16-gauge shotgun to a friend for helping him, but over the course of the next week the friend “scammed (Smith) out of a couple of guns,” according to court documents.

Smith then confronted the man about drugs Smith was supposed to receive in exchange for the guns, and that’s when it escalated to the shooting, the state argued at trial.

According to court documents, Smith stood over the man in bed, yelling and waving a shotgun, occasionally jabbing the man in the arms and head with the barrel of the gun. That’s when it went off, striking the man in the arm.

Smith was arrested May 3, 1997, and charged with one count of attempted murder in the first degree and one count of assault in the first degree, both while armed with a deadly weapon, one count of unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree, one count of possession of an unlawful firearm, and seven counts of theft of a firearm. The first charge was later reduced to attempted murder in the second degree.

He was convicted and later sentenced to 231 months in confinement, including time served.

But, when Smith was led into the Island County courtroom to hear the jury read their verdict, he was bound in shackles, a waistchain and handcuffs. When the judge asked the jury if their decision was unanimous, the first juror answered no, and they were sent back to deliberate until they reached a unanimous verdict. When they came out the second time they again saw Smith in chains, and pronounced him unanimously guilty.

Smith is basing his appeal on the fact that the jury had not yet reached a verdict, and were therefore prejudiced by seeing him in chains.

Greg Rosen, state assistant attorney general, said he has filed a stay of writ pending the appeal, which means Smith will be waiting out the Attorney General office’s appeal in jail.

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