By Beverly Wang, Associated Press
Hampton Union, Friday, May 20, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
CONCORD -- The man who drove the getaway car in Pamela Smart case hopes this will be his last year behind bars.
Vance Lattime Jr. of Seabrook was 17 when he agreed to help Smart murder her husband. Lattime, known as J.R., supplied the getaway car - his grandmother's - and the murder weapon - a .38 caliber handgun from his father's gun collection.
His friend William Flynn - who at 15 became Smart's lover - shot Gregory Smart, 24, in the head while another friend, Patrick Randall, held him down.
Now 32, Lattime has served 15 years of an 18-year-to-life sentence for accomplice to second-degree murder.
His lawyer today was scheduled to ask a Rockingham County Superior Court judge to reduce that sentence by three years. If he succeeds, Lattime could be paroled as early as this summer.
Lawyer Mark Stevens says his client is a model prisoner who deserves to be released early.
"What we're relying on is his progress in prison, the job that he's done and the occupations he's held," Stevens said. "His behavior's been exemplary despite the fact that he's been in a prison environment. That's not easy to do."
Lattime earned his high school equivalency diploma while in jail, worked in prison trades and took computer, carpentry and woodworking classes. And he accepts responsibility for his role in the 1990 murder.
"Vance is not a blamer, he never was," said lawyer Marsha Kazarasion, who represented Lattime during his 1992 sentencing and an unsuccessful sentence reduction request in 1999. "In prison he really worked hard on himself and it showed."
But prosecutor Will Delker is not impressed.
"The only basis he's asking to get out of prison now is that he's of good conduct, but those are the requirements for his plea bargain," Delker said. "He's really shown no basis to get out early."
Smart, now 37, is serving life without parole at a prison in Bedford, N.Y., for masterminding the plot. She has asked Gov. John Lynch for a pardon, saying she has served 15 years in prison for a crime she didn't commit. Lynch said he hasn't reviewed the request yet.
"I would much rather have the death penalty than life in prison," Smart told CNN in a story broadcast Wednesday. "People don't understand that, but the death sentence has an end. This doesn't."
Smart said if she hadn't become involved with Flynn, her husband probably would not have been killed.
"I have to connect myself in some way to being responsible through my horrible act, my horrible acts with Bill Flynn to being involved in some way in Greg being dead," she said.
Bill Smart, Gregory Smart's father, said if she took responsibility for her actions, he might go to the parole board and ask for her pardon.
"If she said that to me, face to face, I would fight for her. I would help her. But let her say it," he told CNN.
Investigators scored a breakthrough in the case when Lattime's parents, discovering their son's connection to the crime, turned in the murder weapon. Lattime, Flynn and Randall, all of Seabrook, agreed to testify against Smart in exchange for plea deals. The three are in Maine State Prison in Warren. A fourth accomplice, Raymond Fowler, already was paroled.
"I still think it was the right thing," Lattime's mother, Diane Lattime, said this week.
"He figures he was stupid enough to get involved," she said. "To hold it against (Smart) would be more or less blaming her, and he feels he made his own decision."
Smart was 22 and working as a media coordinator at Winnacunnet High School when she seduced Flynn. The case's seamy details proved irresistible to the media.
Smart's trial was the most publicized in New Hampshire history, inspiring movies, books and a cult Internet following.
Lattime said he went along because he didn't think his friends "had the guts" to go through with it. At his sentencing in 1992, Lattime apologized to Gregory Smart's family.
"What's done is done. I hope in the future I will make a lot more better decisions," he said.