In the January issue of the New Yorker, Elizabeth Flock wrote this compelling article on Brittany Smith – a battered Alabama woman[pictured above] who shot and killed the man who had savagely attacked her. The article detailed how Smith, a young woman in her thirties, was finally feeling good about life in January of 2018. Smith had battled her share of demons. She had struggled with substance abuse and had lost custody of her three children. But in 2018 Smith had cleaned up and had landed a job paying a decent wage. She was confident that she would soon be getting increased visitation with her kids. Things were looking up.
On that day in January of 2018, she had gotten a call from an old friend – Todd Smith[no relation]. Todd bred pit bulls in Jasper, Tennessee, not that far from where Brittany lived. Brittany had been at Todd’s house the day before and had taken a puppy home with her. When Todd called that day he said he was stranded in a nearby park and needed a place to stay. Despite some misgivings – Brittany had previously rejected his advances – she agreed to pick him up. Brittany brought Todd to her house and not long after he arrived, Todd assaulted her. He choked her until she lost consciousness. When she was woke she was naked and Todd was sexually assaulting her. He beat her again until she again lost consciousness. Afterward, Todd told her that if she ever told anyone about what had occurred he would kill her and her family.
Brittany called her mother Ramona while Todd held the phone. Ramona thought something was wrong and sent Chris – Brittany’s brother – over to Brittany’s house. Todd, Brittany and Chris then drove to get cigarettes. The clerk at a local gas station who knew Brittany noticed her tangled hair, battered hands and scratched face. When he asked if she was ok, Brittany wrote “Todd Smith” on a piece of paper and said Todd had beaten and raped her. She asked him not to call the police however, as she was worried Todd would follow through on his threats to her family.
When Chris dropped Todd and Brittany off, Brittany communicated to her brother that he should return to the gas station. He did and learned what had happened to Brittany. Chris returned to the Brittany’s armed with a .22 caliber pistol. Chris confronted Todd in the house and told him to leave. Todd refused. Chris placed the gun on a counter and a fight ensued. Todd – who was previously ingested a combination of Xanax, amphetamines, meth and alcohol was soon choking Chris. Brittany grabbed the gun and shot Todd. The bullet had no impact. She fired two more rounds and then called 911.
Todd died a short time later. Brittany told the police he had beaten her and raped her and also assaulted Chris. The rape kit showed bruises on Brittany’s neck, breasts, arms, legs and pelvis. There were undeniable signs of attempted strangulation. There were bite marks on her chin and neck.
48 hours later, Brittany was charged with murder.
Initially, Brittany and Todd told police Todd had fired the gun. The reason? Because they thought, as do lots of people in Alabama, that a woman who defends herself against violence from a man doesn’t get a fair shake.
Todd’s assault of Brittany was hardly his first act of violence against a woman. He broke his ex-wife’s nose in the early 2000’s. Subsequently he broke her nose a second time, her ribs, and her jaw. He also repeated sexually assaulted her. He would be charged with domestic violence on five separate occasions. He continued beating his ex-wife even after they divorced. Todd was arrested approximately 80 times before he died.
Despite all that, in March, 2018, Brittany was indicted for Todd’s murder.
Brittany decided that she would assert the “Stand Your Ground” Defense – based on Alabama law which permits lethal force against a threat.
Last month, Flock wrote a follow up article detailing how an Alabama judge ruled that Brittany would not be allowed to assert the Stand Your Ground defense. The judge’s “reasoning” is difficult to comprehend and appears to ignore undisputed evidence of vicious assaults upon both Brittany and her brother. Testimony of Todd’s history of violence against women was stricken.
Although Brittany can seek to reverse the decision, that’s a longshot. The most likely scenario is that Brittany will be tried for murder.