Defense: Husband was delusional in killing of wife

Robert Smith

Robert Smith

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The defense theory in Robert Smith's murder trial posits the Stone Mountain resident believed he was killing his abusive stepfather when fatally shooting his wife in 2006.

Smith's attorney, Scott Drake, concedes that his client twice shot his wife, Jennifer Smith, 42, in the bedroom of their mobile home just after midnight on July 9 that year, following a night of heavy drinking and domestic clashes.

The crux of Drake's defense hinges on a physiological condition called "delusional compulsion." He claims the violence between the Smiths triggered feelings brought on by Robert Smith's sexually and physically abusive stepfather, and that expert testimony will prove Robert Smith shot his wife as a form of self-defense, while acting under the mental disorder.

So heinous was the childhood abuse, it drove a preteen Robert Smith to shoot his stepfather in Florida, Drake said.

"It's like 'Deliverance' and 'Precious' rolled into one," Drake told a jury during opening statements, referring to popular movie titles. "A horrible, horrible childhood."

Chuck Ross, Assistant District Attorney, refuted the notion that Robert Smith was mentally unstable when shooting his wife in the chest and, as she tried to scurry from bed, in the throat.

"He didn't think he was killing some other individual," Ross said. "He was sane; he knew what he was doing."

Testimony in the murder trial opened Tuesday afternoon. Robert Smith faces counts of murder, felony murder and weapons possession during the commission of a crime. The 54-year-old -- who watched proceedings in a yellow dress shirt and red print tie, his beard and hair flushed with gray -- faces life in prison.

Ross said Gwinnett police had been called to the mobile home twice in the hours before the killing -- once by each spouse -- but found no evidence of physical abuse and left.

In the first of three 911 calls played in court, Jennifer Smith told a 911 dispatcher the couple had been drinking and that, "He's had me in a choke-hold twice."

"My wife is uncontrollable," claimed Robert Smith in a 911 call placed two hours later. "She broke the window out of my truck."

A responding Gwinnett police officer testified that evidence at the Stone Mountain Mobile Home Park residence suggested both were lying.

In the final 911 call, a neighbor told a dispatcher Robert Smith had admitted to killing his wife, before handing the phone to a man on the tape identified as him. "I shot her twice," the man said on tape. "Just come get her ..."

Police found Robert Smith sitting Indian-style on his neighbor's porch and arrested him. They recovered a .45 caliber Ruger handgun from his property. In earlier hearings, police said he admitted to the shooting before invoking Miranda rights.

Jennifer Smith's family has said she planned to break free of her husband and uproot to Brunswick, and that news of her plans could have set her husband off.

Testimony is expected to resume today.