Jury recommends 8 months jail time
After hearing two and a half days of testimony in the trial of Flint Hill resident Randy Smoot, the jury deliberated for three and a half hours before returning a verdict of voluntary manslaughter.
Smoot, 48, had been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Harris Hollow resident Jonas “Jay” Alther in an encounter between the two men last October 19. Before the trial began, Smoot entered a plea of not guilty, claiming self-defense.
The jury heard over two dozen witnesses, including local emergency rescue personnel responding to the scene; the medical examiner; a DNA specialist; Sheriff Connie Compton; and character witnesses for both sides.
The first day of the trial, Aaron Dodson, 20, the only eye witness to the incident, gave a detailed account of the hours leading up to the chance meeting of Alther and Smoot, the assault, and the minutes immediately after.
The next day Smoot testified in his own defense, his account differing in important ways from Dodson’s. In cross-examination by Commonwealth’s Attorney Goff, Smoot admitted to lying to Rappahannock County Sheriff Connie Compton and RCSO investigator Jim Jones just hours after assaulting Alther. He said his purpose was to keep Dodson out of trouble.
Before the jury went into deliberation, Judge Jeffrey W. Parker explained that they had three choices of verdict—not guilty, voluntary manslaughter, or second degree murder. After delivering the verdict, the jury was sent back to determine a sentence. There the choices were one to 10 years in the state penitentiary, not more than 12 months in jail, a fine, or not more than 12 months in jail and a fine.
After less than 20 minutes, the jury recommended a sentence of eight months. After reviewing the sentencing guidelines and Smoot’s criminal record, Parker will formally sentence Smoot. That is due to take place September 10.