Editor’s note: The following is an accounting of facts based on evidence presented by testimony, law enforcement, the Defense and the State. This is not an opinion piece. The following article contains graphic testimony and details that some might find disturbing. Read at your own discretion. A link to the full ruling given by Judge Holt is provided at the end of this article.
Jackson County made national news awaiting the decision of Circuit Court Judge Jennifer C. Holt on whether or not the defendant, Brittany Joyce Smith acted in self defense when she shot a man, Joshua Todd Smith (no relation), to death in her Stevenson, Alabama home on the night of January 16, 2018. According to Brittany’s testimony, she and her brother, Chris McCallie, drove to South Pittsburg, Tennessee and picked up Todd because he was stranded and needed a place to spend the night.
Brittany testified that McCallie dropped her and Todd off at her residence and left them there alone. While Brittany and Todd were sitting in the living room, Todd became violent and head-butted her. She ran down the hall, and he followed. After a struggle, she was on the bed, and Todd was strangling her. She blacked out and upon waking, found she had urinated on herself. Todd threatened her life if she “even breathed wrong.” When he began trying to break her neck on the side of the bed, she scratched him, and they struggled. They ended up flipped onto the floor, where Todd strangled her again, and once again she lost consciousness. When she awoke the second time, Todd was engaged in the act of raping her, and Brittany testified that she tried to be still until he finished. During cross examination with the State, Brittany confirmed that the word “finish” meant ejaculation. After which, she testified, Todd was a completely different person and asked for a cigarette.
During the exam conducted on January 16, 2018 at Crisis Services of North Alabama to collect evidence for a rape kit, completed by Jeanine Suermann, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), Brittany was covered in bruises and abrasions, bite marks and strangulation marks. Petechiae, small red flecks of trapped blood just under the surface of the skin, were also present on her face, chest and neck. Suermann was unable to say with certainty that rape occurred. No genital or anal trauma, or indicators for violent penetration of any kind was evident or found. While being cross-examined by the State, Brittany defined the term sodomy and confirmed for the court that to her knowledge she was not sodomized by Todd. Upon swabbing the area, no other evidence of rape was evident or found. Brittany was offered a urine screen to test for the presence of drugs and sexually transmitted infections, but she declined. Forensic testing completed by Angela Fletcher, Forensic Biologist for the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences on the rape kit itself determined there was no semen present, and concerning the evidence collected in the rape kit, Todd was excluded as a contributor.
When the evidence collected from the bedroom, a fitted sheet, comforter and pillow case were tested after the rape kit, it was determined that there were bodily fluids. Other tests determined there was a mixture of at least two other individuals, both of which excluded Todd. There were also results indicating at least four contributors. In the third cutting from the bed clothes, it was determined it did come from a male, but Todd was excluded as a contributor. In the fourth cutting from the bed clothes, a mixture of at least two individuals was found, one of which was male and the other was a match to Brittany. Todd was also excluded as a contributor from this.
Post-mortem labs conducted on Todd detected the presence of illegal substances and confirmed he was under the influence of methamphetamines at the time of his death.
Brittany stated that after the rape occurred, she obtained permission from Todd to use her cell to contact someone to take them to the nearby Mapco gas station for cigarettes. Todd told Brittany, “No cops,” to which Brittany agreed, and she called her mother, Ramona, who sent Chris McCallie back to take them to the Mapco. Brittany testified McCallie was the driver, she was the front passenger, and Todd was in the rear driver’s side seat. Brittany testified she knew her brother had a registered pistol somewhere in the car but was unsure whether or not it was in the glove box.
Upon entering the Mapco, Brittany testified there was one woman, Paige Painter, working the cash register for a woman checking out. She also noticed a uniformed law enforcement officer fixing himself a cup of coffee, but she didn’t ask for help because she was afraid of what Todd would do if she involved law enforcement. Brittany approached the counter and requested a pen and paper. Painter supplied them, and Brittany then wrote down the phone number for her mother and two other friends, Paige and Jeremy. She told Painter that if she ended up dead in the morning, Todd was the one responsible, and she wrote down his full name and mailing address. After which, she purchased the cigarettes and went back to the vehicle where McCallie drove her and Todd home once again.
In regards to the events at the Mapco, Paige Painter testified that Brittany appeared disheveled and, “…looked like she’d been in a fight.” When Painter inquired into Brittany’s condition and about the piece of paper, Brittany told her she’d been choked unconscious by Todd and had peed on herself. Painter also stated that Brittany called her friend Jeremy and told him that someone was trying to kill her. Jeremy instructed Brittany to call the police. Later, Brittany’s mother, Ramona called Painter at the Mapco and Painter told her what she knew. To which, Ramona stated, “When Chris [McCallie] comes in there, tell him to come get me, and we’ll go get Brittany.”
Using Brittany’s subpoenaed cell phone, the court was shown the transmission of texts that passed between Brittany and her mother during this time period, wherein Brittany stated that Todd had just tried to kill her. She then instructed her mother to call the Mapco and ask for Paige Painter. Ramona instructed Brittany to tell McCallie to come pick her up. Again, Brittany tells Ramona to call Paige and to not involve the police because “he” is leaving. Brittany also told her mother not to come over. Later, she was emphatic, and the text was in all caps. “No. DO NOT COME OVER HERE PLEASE STOP I AM FINE.” After which, Ramona’s reply stated, “If you would quit this [expletive] your kids would be home in no time…Calm down and go to bed and sleep it off.”
According to Painter, the following night, January 17, 2018, Brittany came back in the Mapco with Ramona and a friend, and Painter inquired about the previous night’s events. Painter testified that Brittany told her Chris came to the house to speak with Todd and brought his gun with him, and later she heard a gunshot. When she went into the kitchen, McCallie was performing CPR on Todd.
Brittany stated during her testimony that when Todd exited the vehicle after they returned to her home from the Mapco, she told her brother to return and speak to Painter. Brittany and Todd re-entered her home together, and once inside, Brittany testified she went to the living room couch with the puppy, and Todd went to the kitchen. He was rummaging in the refrigerator for something to drink when McCallie entered the home through the kitchen door.
However, in her written statement to Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Baker, Brittany stated she was texting people on her way home from the Mapco, and these texts may have been how McCallie found out what Todd had done. She also stated that the three of them, Brittany, McCallie and Todd, went into the house together after the trip to the Mapco.
There are several versions of what happened next.
In her testimony given during the Stand Your Ground trial, Brittany testified that she heard a single gunshot and an argument between McCallie and Todd break out. McCallie was accusing Todd of trying to kill Brittany, and he ordered Todd to leave the premises. When Brittany rounded the corner and went into the kitchen, she testified the gun was on a small island, she was standing beside the island and the only entry into the kitchen, and Todd and McCallie were now hitting each other. Brittany stated she shouted for them to stop fighting and ordered Todd to leave the house. The fight escalated, and McCallie, now facing Todd, was put into a headlock by Todd and started to turn blue. Brittany then testified that she picked up the pistol and ordered Todd to stop several times, before telling McCallie to try to move out of the way because she was going to shoot. Brittany opened fire and stated nothing happened, so she fired again, with still nothing. After she fired a third time, both men fell to the floor. At this point, Brittany stated she thought her brother was shot, but he stood and reassured her that he was okay.
There were five bullets recovered; three were from the body of Todd Smith, one was from the kitchen floor, and one was from an upper kitchen cabinet.
According to Brittany’s testimony, she called 911 and asked for an ambulance because a man had been shot. The actual 911 call was played for the court, and when the 911 operator asked Brittany who the shooter was, Brittany stated it was her brother. A few seconds later, the operator asked, “Where is the person that shot him [Todd]?” Brittany replied, “He’s right here with me. He’s my brother…he was trying to protect me.” When asked if she had been raped, Brittany stated, “No, he did not rape me. He was trying to, and he choked me out, and I was like, seeing black, and my brother came in, and they got into an argument, and my brother has his pistol permit, and they were fighting, and then…he got shot.”
With directions from the 911 operator, Brittany and McCallie performed CPR on Todd. Brittany testified she was instructed by 911 to disarm the gun and place it on the floor beside the front door before responding officers arrived. According to the bodycam footage from the responding officer that was played for the court, Brittany met him in the front yard and named her brother, McCallie as the shooter once again. In a signed, written statement given to JCSO Lieutenant Tony Baker on January 16, 2018, Brittany, once again claimed her brother, Chis McCallie as the shooter.
McCallie was taken into the custody of the Jackson County Sheriff, and his photos were taken, unclothed. These photos were shown to the court, and based on these photos taken by the JCSO, his condition in the photographs at the time of his arrest and four hours later was neither consistent with someone who had just been in a life or death fight, nor consistent with someone who had just been placed into an aggressive chokehold long enough to cause blue lips or loss of consciousness. McCallie had no swelling, bruising, redness or abrasions anywhere on his face, neck or body caused by a scuffle.In a signed, written statement later given to the JCSO on January 17, 2018, when Brittany confessed to being the shooter, she stated she told McCallie to wipe down the gun before placing it by the door as instructed. In the statement, Brittany confirms her brother’s statement, that McCallie wrestled Todd to the floor, and that Todd was lying on the floor when he was shot; however, on the stand Brittany testified Todd was standing and had McCallie in a headlock when she opened fire. When the State cross-examined this discrepancy, Brittany stated she could not remember, and she did not recall making the statement to Investigator Woodall. When the State asked Brittany to confirm when Todd took her phone, Brittany could not recall.
In the report of the ruling filed by Circuit Judge Jennifer C. Holt, the judge stated, “Upon consideration of the all the evidence, the court finds that the defendant has given inconsistent accounts of the events surrounding Todd’s death, beginning with the 911 call on January 16, 2018, and has attempted to alter or destroy evidence. The court further finds that the defendant’s testimony about material facts was significantly at odds with the physical evidence, exhibits, and other witness testimony.”
Brittany motioned for Stand Your Ground Immunity under Alabama Code 13A-3-23, citing defense for her actions that resulted in the death of Todd. A person is immune to charges after using force in self defense when that is the only recourse in order to prevent imminent harm to themselves or to another person. In order to establish her immunity, Smith underwent the Stand Your Ground trial on January 14, 2020 to provide adequate evidence of her innocence from committing a malicious act of deadly force. After deliberating for almost three weeks, Judge Holt filed her ruling on February 3, 2020 and stated, “The court has carefully considered all the evidence presented at the hearing and the law. The defendant did not credibly demonstrate that she reasonably believed it was necessary for her to use deadly force in this situation. The court finds that the defendant has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she was justified in using deadly physical force. Accordingly, it is ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the defendant’s motion to dismiss and motion for immunity from criminal prosecution is denied.”
Brittany was granted a stay of proceedings by Judge Holt on February 5, 2020. The next step for the defense will be to file a Writ of Mandamus to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. If ruled against her there, Brittany has the option of waiting for her new trial date in Jackson County Circuit Court or going to the Alabama Supreme Court for a final appeal and decision on the self defense ruling.
The full 19-page ruling issued by Judge Holt can be viewed by clicking here.