Murder weapon in Pam Smart case to be returned to owner
Hampton Union, March 31st, 2016
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
BRENTWOOD — The murder weapon in the Pamela Smart case will be returned to its owner, a judge ruled this month, 26 years after it was used to kill Smart’s husband.
Rockingham Superior Court Judge Andrew Schulman ruled on March 8 that Vance Lattime, Sr., is entitled to having his Charter Arms .38 caliber revolver returned, along with its holster and ammunition back from the state. The firearm was stolen by his son, Vance Lattime, Jr., in 1990 and provided to William “Billy” Flynn, who killed Smart’s husband, Gregg Smart.
Last year, Lattime, Sr., filed a request for the firearm to be returned on the basis that police told him in 1990 his revolver would be returned after the investigation and trial were complete.
Schulman denied the request in December after Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin argued the gun could be needed in case Smart, who is serving life in prison without parole, sought a pardon from the governor.
Earlier this year, Lattime, Sr., filed a motion for reconsideration of Schulman’s ruling, leading to Schulman’s recent decision.
Schulman wrote in his order that the physical revolver would not be needed for examination in any potential appeal scenarios for Smart.
“The probability of a future dispute concerning either the cause of death or the murder weapon is asymptotically close to zero,” Schulman wrote. “If it ever becomes necessary to revisit the facts of the case, photographs and videos of the gun will suffice.”
Schulman hinted it was morally wrong for the firearm’s return, as it could cause additional suffering for the family of Gregg Smart. He wrote that murderers sometimes become “B-List” celebrities. He pointed out that Smart’s trial was watched “gavel to gavel” on television, and that her story has been documented in movies and television. He expects the revolver to gain similar notoriety, writing murder weapons are often sold in auctions.
″(Gregg Smart’s family’s) suffering will likely be increased if, as the court fears, the weapon that caused his murder is placed into commerce as a curiosity,” Schulman wrote.
“Because the court must follow the law, rather than its own sense of decency, Mr. Lattime’s motion is granted,” Schulman wrote. “Lattime Sr. is entitled to the return of his gun, holster and ammunition. He can decide whether he really wants it.”
Strelzin said Tuesday he was disappointed with the ruling. He would not comment on the moral implication of the firearms return, saying that was not part of the state’s objection to Lattime’s motions.
He reiterated the state’s core defense against releasing the firearm, which was that no one could predict exactly whether the firearm will be needed as evidence against Smart in a future appeals hearing.
“It’s just playing it safe,” said Strelzin. “Allowing any critical evidence to go back, we feel, could endanger the viability of (the case against Smart.)”