verdict

Britney Smith, left, widow of slain Beckley police Cpl. Chuck Smith, and Susie Smith, mother of Chuck Smith, react to the verdict of guilty with no mercy Friday in the trial of Michael Martin.

Hugs and tears filled Raleigh County Circuit Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick’s courtroom Friday as a jury of four men and eight women returned a guilty verdict — with no mercy — in the case of one of two men charged in the fatal shooting of Beckley Police Cpl. Chuck Smith in the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 2006.

Following three hours of deliberations Thursday evening, jurors took less than an hour Friday morning to reach their unanimous decision. Michael E. Martin, 42, of Beckley, faces life in prison with no chance of parole when he is sentenced by Kirkpatrick on Jan. 18 at 11 a.m.

Martin, who sat stoically as the verdict was read by Kirkpatrick, was convicted of one count each of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit a felony. Martin was accused of setting up a drug deal that went sour between Smith and Thomas Leftwich, Martin’s co-defendant. Leftwich is alleged to be the actual gunman.

A collective gasp arose from Smith’s family as the jury pronounced Martin guilty.

“I’m relieved, happy and sad at the same time,” Smith’s mother, Susie Smith, said afterward.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard to see Martin walking out, although I know he got what he deserved. Justice was served. It’s a victory not just for Chuck, but for all the police officers. Thank God we’ve laid to rest that Chuck was doing his job. He died a hero trying to clear drugs off the streets. There are two career criminals we won’t have to worry about. It’s all thanks to Chuck. He loved his job and believed in what he did. He could’ve and would’ve done so much for the community, but his life was cut short. At least I know it wasn’t in vain,” she said.

Raleigh County chief deputy prosecutor Kristen Keller described her feelings, and those of the law enforcement community, as “relieved, gratified and grateful.”

But Martin’s attorney, Greenbrier County public defender Dewitt Daniell, had a very different take on the verdict.

“We are disappointed that a man who has killed no one is convicted of murder and is likely to spend the rest of his natural life in prison. The process is not over yet. We foresee an appeal,” declared Daniell.

“Appeals are always coming,” was Keller’s response.

Beckley Police Detective Dave Allard noted, “We’re very pleased with the outcome. It’s good to move on and bring some closure. Obviously this doesn’t bring Chuckie back, but it does help to heal some of our hearts. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are still with the (Smith) family. I’m just glad and very pleased with the outcome.”

Beckley Police Chief Tim Deems concurred. “I’m pleased with the verdict. I think the jury had the opportunity to hear all aspects of this case. They deliberated on the facts. We’re happy with the verdict.”

Deems added that any allegations of police misconduct by Daniell on the parts of Smith and Beckley Police Cpl. Will Reynolds were laid to rest by Friday’s verdict.

“I have not received any complaint about any misconduct by anyone involved in this investigation. There were several agencies involved in this investigation,” Deems explained.

— E-mail:

mhill@register-herald.com

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