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Mom found guilty; jury hands down 27-year prison term

BRISTOW — The mother of Kelsey Smith-Briggs sobbed, "I don't understand. Help me,” in court Wednesday after jurors found her guilty of allowing the girl to be abused.

By Nolan Clay Modified: August 23, 2009 at 9:05 pm •  Published: July 19, 2007

/> He and Smith wed on April 18, 2005, and divorced after Kelsey died.

Smith wept during closing arguments as prosecutors said she was just as responsible for Kelsey's death as Porter.

"Tears do not absolve you of your accountability,” Smothermon told jurors in closing arguments. "The path of inaction caused Kelsey Shelton Smith-Briggs to be murdered. You can't ignore that. ... This child was murdered. This child was murdered because her mother allowed it to happen.”

The district attorney said Smith was on notice her husband was hurting Kelsey, pointing to testimony that Kelsey in May 2005 said to her mother, "Daddy Mike hurt my head.” He also pointed to testimony that Smith had called her mother in the weeks before Kelsey's death with concerns after the stepfather taped Kelsey's eyes shut while playing.

Smith's mother testified earlier, "We was starting to watch him.”

Defense tried to raise doubts
Jurors in the trial heard from 22 prosecution witnesses, 10 defense witnesses and two prosecution rebuttal witnesses. Smith did not testify.

The prosecution witnesses included Porter, who denied hurting Kelsey and blamed his ex-wife for the death. Porter also said he saw Smith abuse Kelsey three times.

Jurors learned during the trial that Kelsey suffered a broken collarbone in January 2005 and broken legs in April 2005. She repeatedly was found to have bruises on her face and body and twice bumps around her nose. DHS first became involved after her stepmother on Jan. 14, 2005, found bruises on her body and face and red prickly marks on her rear.

Her defense attorney, Huddleston, told jurors Wednesday there was no evidence Smith was responsible for the injuries. He also said she would never have let her then-husband hurt the girl.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this case, from start to finish, is full of doubt,” the defense attorney said. "I still have a lot of questions. And, what do questions lead to? Questions lead to doubt.”

Huddleston told jurors Smith was only charged because of pressure from the Briggs family, particularly Kelsey's outspoken grandmother, Kathie Briggs. He said Kathie Briggs even met with Porter to try to get evidence against Smith.

He showed jurors a photo of the mother playing with a smiling Kelsey and another of Kelsey sleeping on the mother's stomach. He asked jurors if Smith looked in the photos like a woman who would allow her child to be injured.

The defense attorney said, "She has been through enough. ... It is time to stop it. It is time to draw the line in the sand and say, ‘It stops here.' ... I need you to stand up for her. ... Stand up. Stop it. Stop this stuff now.”

Source of broken legs was unclear
The defense attorney said in his closing argument that the evidence of who broke Kelsey's legs was particularly unclear. He pointed to defense testimony that Kelsey sprained her right ankle at the zoo on April 14, 2005, but walked on her left leg at a slumber party, the courthouse and the mall until going to Kathie Briggs. She was diagnosed with two broken legs on April 25, 2005, when she couldn't walk after returning from the grandmother, according to the defense testimony.

The district attorney conceded he couldn't say who broke the legs. However, Smothermon told jurors they could focus on testimony about Kelsey's bruised and injured behind in January 2005 and have enough evidence to convict Smith of child abuse.

A former boss and a former co-worker testified Smith admitted spanking Kelsey over a diaper with a hairbrush.

The trial was moved from Chandler because of pretrial publicity and lasted eight days. Security was tight. Spectators had to pass through a metal detector, and sheriff's deputies wore bulletproof vests. has disabled the comments for this article.

Lance Briggs, father of Kelsey Smith-Briggs, makes a statement Wednesday outside the Bristow Municipal Building while his mother Kathie Briggs, center, and sister Shirica Howard, left, look on after a jury returned its verdict in the child-abuse case of Raye Dawn Smith, Kelsey's mother. BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN


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