BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Later this month, Patrice Smith, a convicted murderer who is now 37, is expected to be released from the Albion Correctional Facility in Orleans County. And the Erie County District Attorney is not happy about it.
“Just imagine how difficult a phone call it was for the family of the victim when I had to call them on Friday and tell them about this,” said DA John Flynn. “That was an unpleasant phone call.”
Smith has been serving a sentence of 25 years-to-life after being convicted of murder. She murdered Rev. Robert Robinson, then 71, in his Hamlin Road home in December 1998. Smith was just 16 at the time, and has already served 21 years in prison.
In an order issued last Wednesday, Erie County Court Judge Sheila DiTullio agreed to re-sentence Smith later this month. It will allow Smith to walk out of prison. The reason: the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, a state law passed just last year, which allows alternative sentences for victims of domestic violence on the grounds they were subjected to abuse, and the abuse was a significant contributing factor in the commission of the crime.
In her order, DiTullio found the record contains evidence of “Robinson’s abuse and exploitation” of Smith.
“The repeated abuse (Smith) endured cannot be compartmentalized or separated from her actions on the night of the crime,” DiTullio wrote. “They are inextricably interlinked.”
But Flynn disagrees.
“The evidence was clear,” Flynn said. “A month before the actual homicide, the defendant went to one of her friends and asked her, will you come with me to help me rob the victim?”
Flynn supported the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act last year, and says he still does. However, he said he believes it was misapplied to the Smith case and he “respectfully disagrees” with the judge’s decision.
“This law should not help out Patrice Smith, bottom line,” he said.
Kate Mogulescu, Smith’s attorney, also issued a statement on the decision to News 4 Wednesday evening.
“In re-sentencing Patrice Smith, the court did exactly what the DVSJA was meant to do: reduce lengthy prison sentences for survivors of abuse,” said Mogulescu, who serves as an associate professor at Brooklyn Law School. “We’re grateful to the court for the time it took to analyze the facts and circumstances of this case and the new law, and come to a decision that is just and right.”
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.