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Evidentiary hearing set in Kelsey Smith-Briggs case

Judge plans to hear testimony about alleged juror misconduct during mother's 2007 trial.
BY NOLAN CLAY Modified: August 1, 2010 at 12:44 am •  Published: August 1, 2010

— The mother of Kelsey Smith-Briggs will be back in court Sept. 1 for a fact-finding hearing on the "strong possibility" of juror misconduct during her 2007 trial.

Kay County District Judge D.W. Boyd is holding the hearing to gather evidence for the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

The dead girl's mother, Raye Dawn Smith, is serving 27 years in prison for enabling child abuse. Smith, 30, is asking the appeals court for a new trial. A decision could come late this year.

The appeals court July 2 ordered the evidentiary hearing. The appeals court found witness statements filed in her appeal "contain sufficient information to show at least a strong possibility that a juror received information outside of the courtroom."

At issue is whether a female juror during the trial watched television coverage of the case and checked an Internet site devoted to Kelsey. A former co-worker claims the juror admitted to doing both.

The former co-worker also claims the juror during the trial "told me... Smith should fry... looked like a junkie, was trash and no good."

Jurors are supposed to avoid the news during a trial, not form any opinions until all the evidence is presented and not do any research outside the courtroom.

Kelsey, 2, is the Meeker girl whose death from abuse in 2005 became highly publicized.

Many Oklahomans were angered because she died even though DHS workers, a private child-welfare worker and a state judge were overseeing her care because of her repeated injuries.

The death prompted reform legislation and a lawsuit by the girl's father. The state last year paid $525,000 to settle the lawsuit.

The juror, Brandi Marie Oldham, said in an affidavit in 2007 that the jury deliberations and verdict "were based solely on the evidence we received in the courtroom during the course of the trial." Oldham on Friday declined to comment to The Oklahoman about the case.

"Sir, you need to not contact me," she said to a reporter when reached by phone at her work in Jenks.

The former co-worker, though, claims she called him several times daily during the trial with an update on what was going on.

In a 2008 affidavit, Ronald Todd Bowman, of Sapulpa, wrote the juror "admitted to me daily that she watched the television news coverage of the trial... and made statements to me that the news didn't know what she knew about the case."

Bowman also stated the juror "advised me... during the trial she and the other jurors looked at the Kelsey website to see what was on it and to see what information was being added."

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The judge has been ordered to determine:

Whether a female juror "received evidence outside the courtroom by way of searching the Internet, watching news media or any other source."

If so, whether the juror "shared the information about the case with other jurors or other persons."


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