Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Man Goes on Trial in Seventeen-Year-Old Murder Case

On October 23, 1995, eight days before Halloween, in Marietta, Georgia, Delta flight attendant Karmen Smith was brutally attacked and strangled in her rented basement apartment. The killer then sat around and waited. Hours later, Smith’s 5-year-old son, Nicholas, came home from school. This innocent blond-haired child then was viciously stabbed 18 times and left for dead. Against all odds, Nicholas survived the senseless assault.

The house in which Karmen and Nicholas Smith lived, 1580 Old Hunters Trace in Marietta, Georgia, was shared with the owner, a woman named Loretta Spencer Blatz.
Location of the murder: 1580 Old Hunters Trace, Marietta, GA 30062

Some time earlier in 1995, Blatz had filed stalking charges against a young man named Waseem Daker, a Canadian citizen who lived in Duluth, Georgia. Blatz said that after she received repeated harassing phone from Daker, she took her own phone off the hook. Daker then began making harassing calls to Karmen Smith, who lived downstairs. Although he was only 17 years old, Daker was tried and convicted of two charges of aggravated stalking and was sentenced to 10 years. The murder of Karmen Smith took place just before Daker went to prison on the stalking conviction. Daker was long suspected in the Smith murder, which was thought to be in revenge for Blatz having him prosecuted, but nothing could be proven. Without evidence against Daker, and no other suspects, the Smith murder case went cold for 14 years. This is how the assistant district attorney described the murder:
According to Evans: “The defendant didn’t flee. He waited in the house for a significant amount of time. The children returned home from school and went briefly into the downstairs part of the house and called out. The defendant had moved her body into the bed and covered her body with blankets. Because there was no response, the kids went upstairs to the babysitter. After some time, they went back downstairs. They saw a shadow move across the doorway. Nick Smith, thinking it was his mother, ran into the back room. … An arm reached out and grabbed Nick, and stabbed him 16 times. The knife blade broke off and was left at the crime scene. (His playmate) ran upstairs to her babysitter, and the babysitter’s boyfriend grabbed an axe and went downstairs. By that time, Daker had fled.

“They pulled Nick out and took him to a neighbor’s house. Nobody realized Karmen was dead inside. It wasn’t until police arrived, responding to a report of a child injured, that she was found in the bed. The handcuffs had been removed, and she was partially nude. This is a sexual homicide,” Evans said.

Finally, in 2009, the case was re-opened, and DNA was extracted from a hair that was found on the victim’s body. Under analysis, it was matched to Daker. He was arrested in 2010 and charged with malice and felony murder, two counts of burglary, false imprisonment, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and criminal attempt to commit aggravated stalking. Originally he hired an attorney to defend him, but it wasn’t long before that relationship ended and the attorney withdrew as counsel of record.

Daker, left, with one of his attorneys whom he fired.
After several postponement in the trial due to Daker not being able to cooperate with counsel, and new counsel being appointed and eventually dismissed by the defendant, the trial finally got under way last week. Daker, now 34 years old, is acting as his own attorney, contrary to the old adage He who represents himself has a fool for a client. At trial Daker gets to ask questions of his victim and the prosecution’s witnesses. Although this may make the defendant feel powerful and in control, the foolish thing about it is that the witnesses get to accuse him over and over again while giving testimony, saying things like “When you stalked me…” and “When you stabbed my mother…” and “While you were stabbing me 18 times with a knife…” The defendant/attorney cannot respond to those accusations unless he takes the stand in his own defense. It remains to be seen whether that will happen. Daker may also be unaware that the only two previous defendants in the county where his trial is taking place who represented themselves at trial were both convicted of murder.

Apparently the judge has about gotten her fill of the defendant after the delays in starting the trial and his insistence in acting as his own attorney. He does not know the rules of procedure or court etiquette and protocol, which slows things down immensely. She has given him much leeway, but his incompetence is a concern in that, if he is convicted, he could try to argue he did not have adequate legal representation. Despite the judge’s diligent efforts to cover all the bases and make sure the defendant knows the risks in representing himself, an appellate court could agree. A defendant has a right to represent himself, but that does not mean he is competent enough—mentally or knowledgeably—to do so.

The trial began within the last two weeks. Blatz, the victim of the stalking, testified on Wednesday, September 12, in a dramatic fashion, and even sparred verbally with the defendant as he questioned her about their relationship. She explained the relationship she had with Daker and how she had once insisted her get help when she found him naked in her bedroom. Earlier this week, prosecution witness Nick Smith, now 22 years old, was very emotional as he testified in court about that day 17 years ago when his life nearly ended and his mother’s did. Smith showed the jury the scars on his body that remain from the 17 stabs to his chest and one to his hand, the only obvious defensive mark. His testimony came on what would have been his mother’s 47th birthday. And the jury also heard and saw evidence taken from Daker’s computer after his 2010 arrest showing “disturbing photographs depicting women in various states of bondage and undress.” They also viewed pages from a book belonging to Daker showing how to kill someone and not get caught. And finally, the jury heard from the DNA expert that the one of the several hairs found under Smith's shirt had enough DNA to be identified as belonging to Waseem Daker.

Daker questioning Melody Fortin, the paintball club owner.
An interesting piece of the defense case, which came out yesterday in the first day of the defendant presenting his side of the story, is that Blatz was 30 years old when she began going to a point-ball club and playing the game with the defendant, who was 17 years old. The owners of the club said that Blatz was more obsessed with Daker than he was with her. Joseph Fortin testified that he told Blatz that she could not play anymore because he and his wife (the owners) were concerned about the relationship of the older woman and the teen. Even if this is true, it remains to be seen how it could have any effect on the defendant’s role in the murder of Smith.

This morning’s reports are that the former husband of the victim and father of Nick testified after being called by the defendant. He admitted that he and the victim had argued the morning of her death, but denied any involvement in her murder. The defendant is trying to show that someone else had a motive to kill Karmen Smith.

Because he was a juvenile at the time of the murder, Daker is not eligible for the death penalty. The most he  can get is life in prison. The jury could get the case this afternoon, if the defendant does not testify. If he does, it could be a long rest of the week for the Court and the jury.

[UPDATE 9/28/12: Daker convicted after less than 6 hours deliberation.

Jurors have found Waseem Daker of Georgia guilty of killing a flight attendant, Karmen Smith, in 1995 and stabbing her then-5-year-old son Nick 18 times.
Jurors at the trial in Marietta, Ga., started deliberations at 9:21 a.m. and came back with a verdict at about 3 p.m.
Daker was found guilty of felony murder, burglary and aggravated battery and stalking.


1 comment:

  1. It is really a pathetic incident that Karmen Smith and her 5 years old son was killed badly by a man. The culprit should get proper punishment for his crime. Thanks for sharing valuable information.

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