Family of a University of South Carolina student paralyzed with a stray bullet nearly two years ago say they are thankful her shooter was sentenced to 40 total years in prison on Monday.
A state circuit judge sentenced Michael Juan Smith on Monday, shortly after a jury found him guilty of attempted murder and four separate gun charges. Prosecutors accused Smith of firing at rival gang members in Columbia’s Five Points bar district back in October 2013. A bullet struck then 19-year-old Martha Childress as she waited for a taxi nearby. The bullet paralyzed Childress from the waist down.
Childress did not wish to speak with reporters after the trial, instead her uncle Jim Carpenter acted as the family’s spokesman. “The family wanted me to express our deep gratitude to the people in the solicitor’s office, to the investigators, to the law enforcement, everybody who had a part in the successful prosecution,” he said. “We appreciate the way the trial was run. We appreciate the efforts of the jurors. We’re pleased with the verdict, of course, and we’re pleased with the sentence.”
Smith had testified in his own defense, saying he heard gunshots and feared for his life before he opening fire. His attorneys also pointed to a flash that briefly appeared on business surveillance video, which they said was another gun firing. But prosecutors accused Smith of changing his story on what happened that night and said there was no evidence anyone other than Smith had used a gun.
Circuit Judge Robert Hood sentenced Smith to 30 years for the attempted murder charge, and a pair of consecutive five year sentences on the weapons-related charges. Smith is already serving a 10-year federal sentence for possessing a gun as a previously-convicted felon. The two years he has already served will count towards his total sentence.