— Mary Ellen Digiacomo (@memakingchange) June 24, 2015
Trial by Media
Free Pam Smart
Cecelia Pierce, accomplice, co-conspirator to Gregg Smart’s Murder
by BKWing328@gmail.com on March 27
Cecelia Pierce. Where do I even start?
Cecelia Pierce was the State’s star witness. Cecelia had first recorded Pamela Smart in a one sided consent telephone conversation. After her one sided consent telephone recordings, she was wired by detectives without an impartial magistrates signed consent, and given a script by detectives to attempt to solicit incriminating responses out of Pamela Smart. Cecelia appeared on many interviews before her testimony in the Smart case. Cecelia was also under a $100,000 contract for a movie deal with Once upon a time productions, when she appeared on the stand in March 1991.
Cecelia’s part in Gregg’s death has always shocked me. There are many questions I have about the Smart case, Cecelia’s role in Gregg’s death is not one of those. Cecelia places herself as an accomplice in Gregg’s murder, by her own testimony, under oath. Cecelia was the 16 year old state’s witness who said during Mark Sisti’s cross examination, when asked, “When did you know a murder was going to take place?” Cecelia finally answer, after first deflecting the question to establish a timeline, “ around February or March.” Mark asks her, “When did you start trying to get a gun for Bill Flynn to kill Gregg Smart with?” Cecelia answers, ” I don’t know when the date was. But, Bill asked me if I knew where they could get a gun. I told him two places. I never went looking for a gun for them”. When Mark Sisti asks her if she helped Flynn secure a firearm to murder Gregg Smart with, Cecelia proceeds to says “No”. “Ok, So Bill asked you where he could secure a firearm?” Cecelia says, “I’m pretty sure” Mark presses on and asks “What did you say?” Cecelia tells Mark, “I told him my father had a gun.” Mark replies, “Ok”. Cecelia then continues, “I told him a girl I work with at Papa Gino’s has a gun.” Mark asks Cecelia if she called Bill to tell him that the girl that has a gun in her car, that works at Papa Gino’s is here? Cecelia answers, “Yes.”
Let’s stop here. Cecelia, by her own admittance, is an accomplice to murder and has just admitted to calling Bill Flynn to tell him how to secure a gun from her co-worker, and friend Tammy. Mark then asks Cecelia, “Did he say he would be right over?” To which Cecelia answered, “Yeah”. At one point during her testimony, Mark asks Cecelia if she ever told Bill where Tammy lived, Cecelia answers, “I don’t remember”. Mark asks if Bill was interested in her father’s gun, Cecelia answers, “No” and tells the jurors, “Bill didn’t want a shot gun.” How did Bill get to Papa Gino’s to steal the firearm in Tammy’s car? When asked by Mark Sisti, Cecelia answered, “I don’t know”. Mark asks if Cecelia knew aiding in this firearm theft was for the express purpose of killing Gregg Smart? Cecelia answers, “I didn’t think they were going to kill Gregg, whether they had a gun or not.” Throughout, Mark Sisti continues trying to establish a timeline to the attempted firearm theft, Cecelia resists answering repeatedly with evasive answers of- “I don’t know”, “I don’t remember”, “I have no idea”, “I’m not sure”. !
One thing is for sure, we know Cecelia is not sure of a whole lot by her testimony.
We also can establish by testimony–Bill is the one who asks her to help get a gun. Cecelia reveals Bill is the one she calls, NOT Pam, to tell BILL where there is a gun he can steal, from her self described friend no less! It is further revealed through the cross examination by Sisti that Bill Flynn, did in fact follow through with the attempted firearm theft and riffled through Tammy’s car that night. So, by this admittance, how in the world does Cecelia honestly reason Bill wouldn’t actually follow through with the plot to kill Gregg, even with a firearm, if he did in fact attempt to steal Tammy’s gun? Stealing is a pretty desperate act. I’ll even say, admitting to trying to steal from a friend is even more deplorable!
One of the biggest questions, why in the world would a prosecutor use Cecelia Pierce at all? She admits to being an accomplice to murder, helping to secure a firearm and attempted theft. She’s been interviewed by Hard Copy, Inside Edition, Current Affair, signed a $100,000 contract with Once upon a time productions. Upon close examination, it appears to me, the State of New Hampshire has a lot of explaining to do.
“Do you think we should have cameras in the courtroom?”
I’m asked that question at nearly every appearance. Whether I’m there to talk about my latest novel, domestic violence or women in the workplace – it doesn’t matter. Regardless of the occasion or the audience, it’s the one question that invariably pops up.
And it has no easy answer. On the one hand we want transparency. The Constitution guarantees the right to a public trial, and for good reason. We don’t want star chambers where only a select few get to see how justice is administered. But the downside is huge. TV coverage goes on for months before the case even comes to trial. By that time, witnesses who want the limelight have come up with stories to get their fifteen minutes, witnesses who don’t want the limelight have left town, lawyers have been all over the airwaves to spin public opinion and the jury pool is tainted with misinformation, half truths and outright lies. Even the staunchly good citizens who answer their jury summons with the intention of doing the right thing can’t be sure their view of the evidence hasn’t been impacted somehow by all the hoopla.
With the expanding media involvement in criminal trials, the now-accepted fact of channels devoted primarily to gavel to gavel coverage, the question becomes more pressing by the hour: does our Constitutional mandate for public trials necessarily mean we have to allow jury trials to become media circuses, cash cows for networks and news anchors who sensationalize – and inevitably polarize – in order to grab ratings?
There has never been a better, more insightful examination of that question than Jeremiah Zagar’s brilliant and newly released documentary, “CAPTIVATED, The Trials of Pamela Smart” (now playing on HBO). CAPTIVATED is utterly fascinating in its comprehensive look at the way public – and therefore jurors’ – perceptions of all of the players is affected and indeed shaped by media.
That trial, which took place in Derry, a small town in New Hampshire, in 1990, spawned books, articles and films – the fictionalized account written by Joyce Maynard became a major motion picture, “To Die For,” starring Nicole Kidman, and a made for TV movie that starred Helen Hunt. The case of Pamela Smart, a pretty young teacher (but as you’ll see in Zagar’s documentary, she wasn’t exactly a teacher) accused of seducing a high school student so she could recruit him to kill her husband, seized the airwaves and tabloids from the moment of her arrest.
As Jeremiah Zagar put it, “Teenagers in New Hampshire didn’t know who Paul McCartney was, but they all knew about Pamela Smart.” In fact, Zagar says a T shirt that read “I dated Pamela Smart and lived” was a huge seller.
From the moment the case was filed, the media began to dredge up and splash around sexy photos of Pamela Smart in a bikini, claiming she’d posed for them to seduce her besotted high school lover. Except that wasn’t true.
And it probably wasn’t even true that her lover was the one who killed Pamela Smart’s husband. Did she have the affair with the boy? Yes. She admitted that. Was it for the purpose of hiring a hit man to kill her husband? She says no. It was to pay her husband back for cheating on her. True or false? Did she seduce a young boy so she could use him to get rid of her husband? Or did that boy and his accomplices turn on her as a convenient fall guy, claiming that “she made me do it” to strike a deal that would get them a parole date?
In CAPTIVATED, Zagar wisely lets you make up your own mind. But this case doesn’t have science on its side. Pamela Smart was charged as the puppet master, not the killer. So the proof of her involvement comes from the statements of the boys who did it and a “friend” who wore a wire to try and get incriminating statements from Ms. Smart. There were no independent eyewitnesses. No DNA. No fingerprints.
As director Jeremiah Zagar says, it was a “he said- she said” case. Which only makes public perception of the players that much more critical. Who do we believe? Pamela Smart, who says she never told anyone to kill her husband? Or the actual killers, who insist she was the ring leader and driving force that made it all happen? With no physical evidence to buttress the key incriminating points, we’re forced to base our decision on our own impressions of Pamela Smart and the three boys who actually did the deed. There can be no situation more perfectly poised to expose the critical role media plays in shaping public opinion.
“I knew the media angle would be an area of interest,” Jeremiah Zagar said. “But I didn’t start out to make this film about cameras in the courtroom.” But in the course of amassing interviews with all the parties, including the residents in Derry who clearly remember the trial very well, Zagar realized that “the most fascinating part of the trial was “the watchers, more than the ‘watched.’” In other words, the impact of the pervasive media coverage on everyone involved, including the public at large.
Zagar beautifully weaves together the memories of the public (Geraldo Rivera seems to have been the only one interested in whether Pamela Smart could possibly get a fair trial given the intensity of the pretrial publicity), the defense, the prosecution, the cop and the reporter.
But the cynosure of this documentary is the self-taped thoughts of Juror Number 13. Played throughout the film, the insights provided by this articulate, intelligent juror are the most fascinating, and at the same time unsettling, part of the story.
The thing that sets this juror’s views apart from every other juror statement we’ve seen or read – and what makes it so compelling – is the fact that we are hearing her thoughts about the case as the trial is unfolding. It’s a taped journal made in the moment, day by day, in which Juror Number 13 reacts to each of the players as well as their media portrayals. Her thoughtful reactions to every aspect of the trial, the way she questions the fairness of the process that allows for media spin, for hype and hyperbole, her discomfort with it all, is as impressive as it is upsetting.
And the degree to which she and her fellow jurors are clearly aware of and affected by the media coverage is in itself a chilling indictment of that process.
Why is this so effective – and affecting? Because all other juror accounts are given after the fact. As such, they wind up being an effort to justify the decision that’s already been made. And as such, they’re subject to revisionist history, whether intentional or subconscious. Everyone wants to tell you why their verdict was right. So purposeful or not, contrary points of view are either hidden or forgotten.
Not so with Juror Number 13. Her doubts, her suspicions, her disapprovals are rendered in the moment, and they expose our system for better and for worse, warts and all.
We all take television for granted. It’s a fact of life in our world. But the indelible impact of the moving image and how it can shape our views, even alter our memories, is a more crucial issue than ever, now that criminal trials have become a staple of viewing entertainment.
CAPTIVATED puts this issue front and center, and its importance in that regard cannot be overstated. Dramatically compelling, insightful and comprehensive, this film takes a deep, intelligent look at an issue that more than ever, plagues our system of justice.
No matter how much you thought you knew about the impact of media coverage, this eye opening film will leave you with a whole new insight.
You can catch the replays of “CAPTIVATED, The Trials of Pamela Smart” on HBO
For decades the public has confused the cold blooded and ruthless killer teacher in TO DIE FORwith Pamela Smart. For decades the media has deliberately and cynically reinforced that mistake through provocative headlines, captions, articles, films, books, graphics, photos and TV shows.
Pamela Smart was never a teacher or a killer. But she has always been a blood sport for the media, an easy target for sensationalism, prurience, exploitation and undisguised snickers. The world has been programmed to hate Pamela Smart by this obsessive and exploitive linking of her name and situation to a sociopathic character in a highly popular work of fiction. It has provoked cruel treatment inside prison, the dimming of her prospects to seek relief or freedom, and a blood-lust by the mob. It may have locked the prison gates so tight they may never open.
Pamela Smart is a real and worthwhile person, not the murderous teacher portrayed in TO DIE FOR. Its author, Joyce Maynard, says so. This comic farce is not her story. Joyce Maynard says so. She also urges the governor to set Pamela Smart free from the too-harsh sentence she has been serving for 25 years– life Without the possibility of parole.
It is time to end the madness!
Spokesperson for Pamela Smart
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