By CURTIS BUNN
Urban News Service
When a New Orleans gunman ambushed, shot and killed Baton Rouge Cpl. Betty Smothers who was escorting a grocery manager in her cruiser to make a night deposit on Jan. 7, 1993, it was not the first time the mother of former NFL star Warrick Dunn had met her killer.
Ironically, six years earlier, Smothers caught her future assassin, Kevan Brumfield, shoplifting but she let him go – giving him a chance to turn his life around – a chance he threw away when hid in the darkness and shot the 14-year veteran police officer in the forearm, chest and head. His accomplice, Henri Broadway, also fired five times, striking Kimen Lee, a Piggly Wiggly assistant manager, who miraculously survived multiple gunshot wounds and took control of the cruiser where she drove to safety and called 911.
This is a story of contrasting lives – a famous football player who at 18 years old took responsibility for his five siblings after losing his mother juxtaposed against a killer with a long criminal record who worked only three months of his entire adult life. And it’s a story of a justice system that for more than 20 years has left Dunn with a wounded soul still waiting to heal from that fatal night that spun his world off its axis.
At the heart of his discord is the back-and-forth legal drama around the case leaving Dunn bitter about the justice system. Brumfield, who confessed to the crime, has been on death row since his 1995 conviction, but five years ago he won an appeal to determine if he is mentally disabled. Broadway remains on death row awaiting for his final appeal to be heard.
A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Brumfield was eligible for a hearing on whether he is intellectually disabled. The court, in a 5-4 decision, threw out a 2014 appeals court ruling that barred Brumfield from asking for the special hearing in which a lower court judge subsequently found he was intellectually disabled.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the fiery dissent, retold the crime in detail and placed a picture of Dunn’s mother clad in her uniform next to her police car to remind the court of the tragedy.
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