A Killer Who Wants To Die

Defense attorney Jamie McAlister has a dilemma, reports CBS News Correspondent Russ Mitchell. She is trying to help her client, a convicted murderer, receive the death penalty. Douglas Alan Smith, her client, is all for it.

In fact, it was Smith's idea. "I cannot do the sentence," said Smith. "I cannot live the rest of my life locked up."

The Smith case is the talk of the Phoenix legal community, perplexing everyone from prosecutor Juan Martinez to Smith's lawyer, who is a fierce opponent of the death penalty.

"He's asked me to do something legal and I have an obligation to vigorously represent him," said McAllister.

Hitchhiking near Phoenix, Smith got a ride from 68-year-old Sam Ambrose. They wound up at Ambrose's apartment, where investigators said smith brutally attacked Ambrose and beat him to death.

"The coroner testified that there were approximately 60 blows to this person's body, that he bled to death while he was down on the ground, said Martinez.

Alice Ambrose was out of town the day her husband was killed. She and Sam Ambrose were married 44 years, with four grown kids, and seven grandchildren.

"I just couldn't believe it when it happened," said Ambrose.

Ambrose said that after the murder, she just couldn't stay in the couple's home. You would think if anybody in the world wanted to see Doug Smith put to death, it would be Alice Ambrose. However, she doesn't.

"We're not asking for that - the death penalty - and we just want him put away where society will be safe from him," she says.

To make this story stranger yet, the prosecutor agrees.

"The state is not in the business of assisting a suicide," says Martinez, a veteran homicide prosecutor who has sought the death penalty in a number of cases.

"It's just not warranted," he says. "We knew that there was a mental problem that indicated that perhaps the defendant should be given some consideration."

The state believed Smith had mental problems, but did not consider them serious enough to find him legally insane. Still, Smith's mental condition was significant enough to prevent the prosecution from seeking the death penalty.

Smith says he killed Sam Ambrose in the midst of a violent seizure -- seizures from which he says he still suffers. However, the jury did not buy that defense, convicting Smith on all charges after deliberating only three hours.

"I'm sitting in a position right now where I have a choice," says Smith. "I can spend the rest of my life in prison or I can petition to go ahead with the death penalty."

To him, the death penalty is preferable to going to prison long-term without sophisticated medication to control his seizures. In ddition, Smith says he seeks the death penalty out of feelings of deep remorse.

"It would buy them peace," he said.

Smith did not get his wish. A judge in Pheonix sentenced him to at least 62 years in prison, but Smith will appeal the sentence.

Reported by Russ Mitchell
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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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