The case of a 28-year-old San Francisco woman accused of murdering the 18-year-old father of her child in 2008 was handed over to a Superior Court jury today.
DeEbony Smith was arrested when she turned herself in to police three days after her estranged boyfriend Lazarus Pickett was found stabbed outside a home in a public housing complex in the city’s Western Addition neighborhood on the morning of Dec. 30. He died that night at the hospital.
Smith’s attorney has argued Smith stabbed Pickett in self-defense, after he allegedly struck her as the pair argued inside Smith’s car over the return of some baby items to her.
Pickett staggered out of the car and collapsed on a nearby sidewalk.
Their child was 2 months old at the time.
Pickett, who was 17 years old when he began the relationship with Smith, had a history of domestic abuse against her. Smith had a restraining order against him at the time of the stabbing.
Prosecutors say Smith is guilty of second-degree murder.
Assistant District Attorney George Butterworth told jurors today during his closing argument in the trial that the couple “had a long-simmering and volatile relationship,” and that Smith blamed Pickett’s behavior for getting her evicted from her apartment.
In addition to her new baby, she was also caring for her two older children, born of two other fathers no longer in the picture. She was without a home and living with relatives.
That day, she was determined to get Pickett to return her baby seat and diaper bag, Butterworth said. Pickett reportedly responded by mocking her.
“But that is not a justification for sticking a knife in somebody’s chest,” Butterworth argued.
According to the medical examiner, the knife had been plunged one time 4 to 5 inches straight into Pickett’s chest, puncturing his heart.
Witnesses testified during the trial that Smith at first reacted as though Pickett’s injury was not serious. She later became concerned, but left the scene after police arrived. Hours later, Smith confronted a woman with whom Pickett was living nearby in an attempt to get the baby items returned to her.
That woman testified that Smith bragged to her about stabbing Pickett and then the two came to blows.
But defense attorney Teresa Caffese told the jury today that her client was completely innocent. She claimed Pickett initiated the fight inside the car, allegedly punching Smith in the eye and holding her against the window until she grabbed the knife to ward him off.
“She didn’t mean to kill him,” Caffese said. “She didn’t even mean to hurt him. She wanted him off her.”
Caffese called the stabbing “an accident,” but said Smith had been justified in defending herself because of Pickett’s history of physical and emotional abuse.
Caffese said Pickett’s pattern was to attack or threaten Smith, and leave when she called police.
“She had been abused by Pickett in the past, and this time he didn’t stop beating her and run away,” Caffese said.
Butterworth, however, said the evidence on that morning indicated that it was Smith who allowed Pickett into her car, and two seconds later, a witness outside observed her reach over and thrust her arm at him, presumably the fatal knife strike.
It was only after he had been stabbed that Pickett then pushed her up against the window, Butterworth said.
Butterworth said Smith’s testimony during the trial that she had been reaching for anything to back Pickett off and that the knife was the first thing she grabbed was inconsistent with other evidence that appeared to show a precise attack.
“It’s an act of anger,” he said, “it’s an act perhaps of desperation, but it’s an affirmative act.”
Butterworth also argued that Smith showed she had been conscious of her own guilt when she told a police officer by phone following the stabbing that “I know I’m going to prison for this.” The call from police trying to get her to surrender took place the day of the stabbing but before Pickett had died.
Butterworth explained to the jury today that in addition to second-degree murder–his theory–they could also consider the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter under theories of “imperfect self-defense” or “heat of passion.”
But he said that those theories require justified lethal force or sufficient provocation, which he argued was not present in this case.
The jury will begin deliberating on Monday morning.