By Josh Presley
Charles Smith, of West Point, was found guilty of murder on Wednesday and sentenced to life in prison Thursday.
Smith was charged with the September 2011 stabbing death of Clay County resident Benny Oaks.
Clay County Circuit Clerk Bob Harrell said the jury deliberated late into Wednesday evening.
“They jury deliberated for about three and a half hours and came back with a verdict at 8:45 p.m.,” Harrell said.
Judge Jim Kitchens postponed sentencing until Thursday morning to have a hearing on whether Smith could be considered a habitual offender under Mississippi Code 99-19-83.
The statute says that a person convicted twice on a previous felony - one of which is a violent crime - and served more than one year in prison receive a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Kitchens found that Smith was in fact a habitual offender based on two separate convictions prior to the murder of Oaks.
“In 1989 Smith was convicted of burglary and received a sentence of five years,” Kitchens said. “Initially that sentence was suspended and he was placed on supervised probation.”
Kitchens said that while Smith was on probation he was convicted of aggravated assault.
“Smith attacked a man with a brick with such apparent ferocity that it knocked his eye out of his head and ripped his ear off,” Kitchens said. “He then poured gasoline on the man with the intent of setting him on fire but his lighter was lost in the fight.”
Smith received a 16-year sentence for the aggravated assault plus five years from his revoked probation for the burglary charge.
Clay County Assistant District Attorney Lindsey Clemons said that Smith’s time in his previous incarceration could have been reduced for good behavior; however Smith served the full 21-year sentence.
To subscribe to the E-edition, please click here .