State’s top death penalty prosecutor rests

-A A +A

Two, "maybe more" needed to fill his shoes.

By Bob White


‘It may take more than’ two prosecutors to fill his shoes By BOB WHITE


Kentucky death row inmates know him well. He’s the reason why more than half of them are still there.

In nine trials, David Smith’s prosecutorial skills sent seven killers to the last stop in Eddyville.

Two other killers Smith successfully prosecuted received maximum allowable sentences, since no aggravators provided for the death penalty as a possible sentence.

He’s presided over the death penalty unit since 1988 and was chief counsel in cases against the last man to go to the electric chair (Harold McQueen); the first to receive a lethal injection (Eddie Lee Harper); and Kentucky’s most recent execution (Marco Chapman).

“It’s been my station in life,” Smith said. “I’ve decided all my life to stay at my station and I believe in what I’m doing.”

Smith said he’s not necessarily proud of the condemnations he has won on behalf of the state, but said he’s “certainly not ashamed of it,” either.

Dana Todd, Smith’s co-counsel for more than a decade in the case against convicted killer Michael St. Clair, said Smith “has been a mentor to me and many others.”

Along with sending men to death row, the 53-year-old Smith, a Fayette County resident, has argued before Kentucky’s Supreme Court 111 times and successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court twice.

After 27 years of service with Kentucky’s attorney general’s office, Smith announced this summer his end-of-the-year retirement.

Two attorneys were appointed to fill Smith’s role in the St. Clair case. One of them, Todd Lewis, said “it may take more than that” to fill Smith’s shoes.

Bob White can be

reached at (270) 505-1750.