Court orders new trial in Horry County man’s conviction in 4-month-old daughter’s death

troot@thesunnews.comOctober 30, 2013 

Wesley Smith

The state’s Supreme Court remanded the case of a 33-year-old Horry County man, who was convicted in the 2004 death of his 4-month-old baby, and ordered a new trial, according to the opinion published Wednesday.

Wesley Smith, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence at MacDougall Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, appealed his case to the Supreme Court after the state’s Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction in 2011.

Smith was convicted in April 2008 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for homicide by child abuse in what prosecutors said was aiding in the Valentine’s Day 2004 death of his daughter, Ebony Smith.

During his trial, Wesley Smith denied hurting his daughter, but admitted to giving her “cough medicine.”

Ebony Smith’s mother, Charlene Dandridge, pleaded guilty to failing to provide medical attention for her daughter and was sentenced to five years in prison for neglect that ended with the child’s death.

Ebony died on Valentine’s Day in 2004 after she suffered 17 rib fractures and ingested four times the recommended adult dose of cold medication, officials said.

Dandridge’s charge stemmed from a leg fracture the child suffered two months before her death. Prosecutors said Dandridge knew Ebony had been abused by Smith but failed to take the baby to the doctor for two weeks after the fracture.

Wesley Smith is eligible to be released on Feb. 10, 2021, according to the state Department of Corrections website.

In their writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals, Supreme Court justices wrote that they reverse the lower court’s decision and remand for a new trial, if prosecutors desire a retrial.

Smith filed the appeal saying the lower court “erred by applying common law principles of accomplice liability to affirm his conviction for a statutory offense for which he was not indicted,” justices wrote.

In their February 2011 ruling, the Court of Appeals justices wrote that Circuit Court Judge Edward Cottingham “acted within his discretion in admitting evidence of Ebony’s broken femur and did not err in allowing the state to proceed under the aiding and abetting section of the homicide by child abuse statute. Regarding the other issues, Smith’s claim that the trial judge erred in excluding evidence of bias fails because the judge did not exclude the evidence. Smith’s argument that the judge erred in excluding evidence of his borderline intelligence is not preserved for our review."

At the end of Smith’s trial, Cottingham gave him the maximum sentence allowed by law and also told Smith if he had been found guilty of the original charge, he would have sentenced Smith to life in prison.

Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.

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