The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the conviction and death sentence of a Franklin County woman accused of starting the fire that killed her 6-year-old son in 2008.
Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said he received a 172-page order Friday afternoon affirming the conviction and sentence of Christie Michelle Scott.
Scott, 33, of Russellville, was convicted of capital murder in July 2009.
“It was the longest jury trial in Franklin County history,” Rushing said. The trial started June 8 and ended July 9, 2009. “We feel like this is one of the most difficult cases we have ever tried.”
On Aug. 5, 2009, Scott became the first woman in Franklin County to be sentenced to death. Franklin County Circuit Judge Terry Dempsey overrode the jury’s recommendation that Scott be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and instead ordered that she be put to death.
Scott’s attorney, Robert Tuten, of Huntsville, said Scott will appeal Friday’s decision to the Alabama Supreme Court and continue the appeal process, if necessary.
Some of the issues brought up in the appeal included the fact Scott was denied a change of venue, and that the judge allowed photos of lost electrical outlets, from the room where the fire started, into testimony. The outlets were misplaced by either local or state fire investigators.
Also, Scott’s attorneys questioned Dempsey for allowing into evidence prior house fires that Scott had been involved in, as well as prior issues, problems and statements she had with and about her son, Mason, both before and after the fire.
The five appellant judges were unanimous in Friday’s decision.
In the ruling, the judges wrote “this court has independently weighed the aggravating circumstances and the mitigating circumstances and is convinced, as was the circuit court, that death was the appropriate sentence for the horrific murder of 6-year-old Mason.”
The judges went on to write, “neither is Scott’s death sentence disproportionate nor excessive as compared to the penalties imposed in similar cases.”
Rushing said he was pleased the appellant judges agreed with the state’s position on the critical issues of the case.
“We accept the fact that there will likely be more appeals,” Rushing said. “But we hope the other levels of appellant courts will side with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and uphold the conviction and sentence.”
Tuten said Scott is prepared to take her appeal to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court if necessary.
“She will go as far as need be to get this overturned,” he said.
Scott was found guilty of starting the Aug. 16, 2008, fire at her family’s home on Signore Drive in Russellville.
Scott testified during the trial that she had no idea how the fire might have started in the bedroom where Mason was sleeping.
During the trial, Scott said she tried to get to her son but couldn’t because of heat, smoke and fire. She and her younger son were able to escape by jumping from a window.
Her husband, Jeremy, was out of town when the fire happened.
During the trial, prosecutors contended Scott started the fire to collect on a $100,000 life insurance policy.
Scott is being held on death row at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka.
“She is holding on as best as she can under the circumstances, waiting on this to be overturned, which we believe will eventually happen,” Tuten said. “But this will not be a good weekend for her, now.”
Rushing said Friday’s ruling is another step in bringing closure to the case.
“It’s a step in the right direction of ultimately the sentence being carried out by the state of Alabama,” he said.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.