Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Two SC Children Drown Strapped in Car Seats: Mother Questioned

Eerily Similar to Susan Smith Case

The bodies of two young boys, an 18-month-old and 2-year-old, were pulled early Monday morning from a submerged Chrysler sedan in the Edisto River, about seven miles west of Orangeburg, South Carolina. The children were still strapped in their car seats when they were recovered.

On Monday, the police questioned 29-year-old Shaquan Duley, the boys' mother. Police are trying to determine whether the deaths were an accident or possibly deliberate.

The deaths are eerily similar to the the 1994 murder of two South Carolina children by their mother. In Union, South Carolina, about 100 miles north of Orangeburg, Susan Smith first reported to police that her car and young sons Michael, 3, and Alex, 14 months, had been hijacked by a black man, but she confessed 10 days later that she had sent her boys into John D. Long Lake strapped in their car seats.

The Susan Smith case was one of the first examples of the "media mob" that has become nearly routine during sensational or high profile criminal cases. Media mob is the term used to describe hoards of television, radio, print and now electronic media that descend on a street, courthouse or town to cover a story with nationwide appeal. In 1994, the media attention catapulted a young prosecutor named Tommy Pope into the national spotlight.

Pope's most effective moment during Smith's trial was a videotaped re-enactment that he used to show jurors that it took Susan Smith's car six minutes to sink with her children strapped inside. Smith was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. She is incarcerated at Leath Correctional Institution in Greenwood, South Carolina. She is not eligible for parole until November 2024.

Pope visited Lawrence County, Pennsylvania at my invitation in 2004. He shared the meticulous planning that was involved in producing the now famous videotape. He shared the gut-wrenching video with college students during a workshop that also provided some insight into dealing with the media during high profile cases.

Pope was also the featured speaker at a Police Officer Appreciation Dinner hosted by my office at the time, the Lawrence County District Attorneys Office.

Pope has since retired as a South Carolina county prosecutor. He recently re-emerged in politics as a candidate for the state house. He is challenging on of the longest serving members of the South Carolina House of Representatives.

To read more: http://news.bostonherald.com/news/national/south/view.bg?&articleid=1275243&format=&page=1&listingType=natsouth#articleFull

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