- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A Springfield man who withdrew his guilty plea to second-degree murder after Missouri voters approved an amendment changing state gun laws has been convicted of a lesser crime in his girlfriend’s death.

Darrell Smith was convicted Thursday of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action for shooting his girlfriend, Kimberly Walker, in December 2012. Smith had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last summer but withdrew his plea after Missouri voters in August approved an amendment that allows nonviolent felons to possess guns, The Springfield News-Leader reported (https://sgfnow.co/1tE9rqQ ).

When he is sentenced on March 27, Smith will face significantly less prison time. The sentence for second-degree murder is between 10 to 30 years, while the maximum sentence on the manslaughter charge is seven years. Smith could get additional prison time for armed criminal action.

Before Amendment 5 was approved, Smith could have been found guilty of murder for committing a felony that resulted in a death. He would have been considered a felon in possession of a firearm because he has past convictions for stealing.

Smith cried after the jury’s verdict on Thursday, and his mother called it a blessing. Walker’s parents were visibly upset and declined to comment, the newspaper reported.

Walker’s attorney, Charlton Chastain, contended the shooting was an accident and that Smith’s actions afterward - taking Walker to a neighbor’s house and the moving the gun - were stupid but not criminal. Walker died the day after she was shot.

“Stupid? It should probably be tattooed across his forehead,” Chastain said of Smith. “But if stupidity was a crime, jails would be busting at the seams.”

Prosecuting attorney Philip Fuhrman argued the shooting was not accidental, noting Smith’s history of domestic violence and changes in the story he told police. Smith initially said Walker shot herself, then said he was holding the gun when it went off accidentally.

“When you consider all of the physical evidence and how many times the defendant changed his story, he is not telling the truth,” Fuhrman said. “He is not telling the truth because he killed Kim intentionally.”


Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com

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