Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Main Line Murders

The Surprise Victory

The story was not yet over. It would not end until after two books, Joseph Wambaugh's Echoes in the Darkness and Loretta Schwartz-Nobel's Engaged to Murder were published and much of the country watched enthralled as the characters were depicted in the two-part TV production of Echoes in the Darkness.

Bill Bradfield settled into confinement at maximum security Graterford Prison on February 19, 1985. The prison's media liaison, Alan LeFebgre, recalled Bradfield as "soft-spoken, respectful to staff, followed prison rules and rarely had problems. However, when the first part of the movie Echoes in the Darkness showed on November 1, 1987, a Sunday, inmates suddenly realized who he was. A mob of inmates went to his cell at about 9:00 p.m. and demanded that he go to the payphone and call the father of the children and tell him where the kids were so the father could give them a decent burial. So he was locked in solitary for about a month for his own security. Bradfield asked for a TV in solitary to see what would happen in Part 2 of the movie. The officer said, "What for? You already know the ending," and denied him the TV.

During his stay in prison, Bradfield worked for a time as a bookkeeper/clerk in the correctional industry office. The prison made good use of Bradfield's abilities as a teacher. He tutored in the prison school, teaching inmates reading and writing and helping them prepare for the GED high school equivalency test. He also taught advanced students Latin. He worked for free in the Law Clinic, helping inmates file appeals and motions.

He never expressed a word of guilt or remorse for the murders. He died January 16, 1998, of a heart attack at the age of 64.

After his conviction, Jay Smith, 58, was placed on death row. In a tiny isolated cell, he would exercise to keep his physical health from deteriorating and read, especially the Bible, to keep his mind active. He often wrote letters to his brother, William, and his youngest daughter, Sherri.

Costopoulos was convinced they had solid grounds for an appeal. First, the lawyer believed that the testimony of Bradfield's friends as to what Bradfield told them about Smith was inadmissible hearsay. Then, in July 1986, an anonymous tipster clued the lawyer in to another ground for appeal. That caller said that, contrary to the assertions of both witness and prosecution, Raymond Martray had gotten a deal in exchange for his testimony. Finally, Costopoulos uncovered evidence that the district attorney's office had known of the lifters that picked up sand from Reinert's feet and withheld it from the defense.

He went before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court with these issues. One justice called the decision of Judge Lipsitt to allow Bradfield's friends to repeat statements Bradfield claimed Smith made "crazy" and asked, "What about Smith's right to confront his accusers?"

On December 22, 1989, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court delivered a Christmas present to convicted triple-murderer Jay Smith. It ruled that he was entitled to a new trial. Their decision said nothing about the prosecution's denial of its deal with Martray or its concealment of the lifters. Smith's trial had been fatally flawed because of the admission of the hearsay.

Smith remained in prison but was taken off death row.

That was not the last or most surprising victory that William Costopoulos would win for his client. He sought a change in Pennsylvania's law regarding double jeopardy, one that would preclude the prosecution from a retrial if they had, as Costopoulos alleged they had in Smith's case, "engaged in intentional, willful, and deliberate prosecutorial misconduct."

It would take almost three more years before the state Supreme Court ruled on the argument. On September 18, 1992, the court ruled in favor and ordered that Jay Smith be released.

In Principal Suspect, Costopoulos recounts chatting with Smith privately after the victory. "Well, what's my grade now?" the lawyer asked.

"I gave it a lot of thought on the way down," the educator replied, "and I have decided to give you a B+."

"B+?!" the disappointed attorney exclaimed.

He missed getting an "A," the former principal explained, due to "tardiness of work."

Many people were shocked and repulsed by this court decision. They strongly believed that Smith had murdered a woman and two children. Ken Reinert was enraged and sickened. Lisa Kelso, his stepdaughter, said, "I'm deathly afraid."

As of this writing, Smith is living in Pennsylvania, according to Costopoulos. "I talked to him last year [2001]," Costopoulos said, "and he is in very good physical health. He just wants to fade into the community and I think he's having some success in that. The name 'Smith' helps. He's living on Social Security."

Costopoulos has said he believes his client did not murder the Reinerts. Who did? "I don't have any doubt Bradfield conspired to kill the Reinerts," the attorney replied. "He blamed Smith because Smith was the perfect fall guy. If Bradfield got an executioner to do this which is as likely as not, the executioner he got was a pretty evil, dangerous man and Bradfield wasn't going to cross swords with a guy like that."

 

 

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