In 1968, William Smith and William Barksdale walked into a check-cashing store at 56th Street and Chester Avenue to commit an armed robbery. Shopkeeper Charles Ticktin was killed in the ensuing chaos by William Barksdale, while Mr. Smith’s sole responsibility was to get the money from the cash register. He was charged with first degree murder despite not actually being the gunman, and pleaded not guilty. Despite this stark distinction of the two men, under PA law, Mr. William Smith was given a life sentence, and seemingly destined to die by incarceration.
His case came up again in 2017, and Pennsylvania Attorney General was the sole “no” vote on the board of pardons, but when a second hearing took place, the board decided to unanimously recommend that Gov. Wolf approve Smith’s application for commutation. Smith was granted commutation in June. He is looking forward to spending time with his over 20 grandchildren. For many years his health has deteriorated and he fell into the category of $70,000k per year to incarcerate.
Countless aging, low risk, and high achieving men and women continue to sit behind bars when they could be productive members of society. Smitty is incredibly accomplished himself, as he was heavily recruited by Comcast for his expertise in electronics, and responsible for repairing Graterford’s electric grid when the facility suffered blackouts. Many of these incarcerated peoples, like William Smith, have the blessing of their victims families and the department of corrections to be released, the parole board is powerless to intervene. These cases often fall to the precarious board of pardons whose unanimous consensus is often insurmountable for deserving lifers. SB942 will empower the Parole Board to review some of these cases.