BRISTOW, Okla. – A Creek County jury convicted a Meeker woman on Wednesday of enabling child abuse in the death of her 2-year-old daughter.
The jury recommended a prison sentence of 27 years for Raye Dawn Smith, 27. Jurors deliberated for about 2 1/2 hours before returning with their verdict.
Smith, who could have received life in prison on the charge, lowered her head and cried, "I don't understand. Help me," when the 12-member jury announced its unanimous verdict.
Prosecutors said Smith bears responsibility for the injuries that killed 2-year-old Kelsey Smith-Briggs.
"This trial is about her accountability," District Attorney Richard Smothermon said during a 45-minute closing argument in the felony child-abuse case against Smith. "This defendant abused her child. She either did it or let it happen."
As he spoke, Smith wept at the defense table next to her attorney, Steve Huddleston.
"Tears do not absolve you of your accountability," Smothermon said. "Kelsey Smith died — died."
Prosecutors allege Smith either hurt her daughter or allowed her then-husband, Michael Porter, to hurt the child.
Smith has denied wrongdoing, and Huddleston told jurors Wednesday that prosecutors failed to prove their case.
Huddleston argued that Porter was responsible for Kelsey's death, alleging that he sexually abused and killed the child.
Porter initially was charged with sexual assault and first-degree murder, but pleaded guilty to enabling child abuse and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Porter testified last week that he believed Smith was responsible for the girl's death.
Huddleston argued that Smith stood accused of abusing her child while she was being supervised by the state Department of Human Services, the courts and family members of Lance Briggs, the child's natural father.
"She was being watched. She was being watched constantly," Huddleston said. But no member of the Briggs family ever testified to seeing Smith abuse her daughter, he said.
"How is she allowing child abuse? Pretty clever," Huddleston told jurors.
Smothermon said Briggs did not testify during the case because he was serving in Iraq at the time his daughter was being abused.
"Do you know what he came home to?" Smothermon asked jurors. "He came home to bury his child."
But Huddleston argued Smith is being prosecuted for mistakes made by those responsible for the girl's supervision.
"I know mistakes were made. Sure they were made. But they want to try her for their mistakes," Huddleston said. "She did everything everybody asked her to do. And then her child dies."
During his argument, Huddleston held up photographs to jurors showing Smith with Kelsey.
"Does that look like a woman who would allow someone to abuse her child?" Huddleston asked.
Kelsey died on Oct. 11, 2005, at her mother and stepfather's home near Meeker. Evidence indicated she suffered repeated injuries in the final months of her life, including a broken collarbone, broken legs and bruises on her face and body.
District Judge Paul Vassar moved the trial from Lincoln County to neighboring Creek County because of pretrial publicity.