Oklahoma's Own In Focus: Woman Convicted Of Enabling Child Abuse Asks State For Early Release From Prison

Oklahoma's Own In Focus: Woman Convicted Of Enabling Child Abuse Asks State For Early Release From Prison

A woman convicted of enabling child abuse in 2007 is looking to get out of jail early, but the family of the abused toddler is holding a protest in an attempt to make sure she serves her sentence.

Two-year-old Kelsey Smith Briggs died in 2005 from a blow to the stomach at her mother and stepfather’s home in Lincoln County.

Kelsey's mother, Raye Dawn Smith, and stepfather, Michael Lee Porter, were sent to prison in 2007.

Raye Dawn Smith was sentenced to 27 years in prison for enabling child abuse. Since then, she’s been at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center serving time.

Smith is asking for an early release, citing good behavior.

The Kelsey Smith Briggs Case

Kelsey Smith Briggs became a household name as the Oklahoma toddler who suffered countless bruises and two broken legs.

Kelsey’s care was under the Department of Human Services supervision when she was killed, making her case emblematic of systemic failure in the state’s child protective services. A law was passed in her name that aimed to reform the system.

“When I see those pictures, I try my best, as bad as it may sound, to not think,” Lance Briggs said. “It hurts too much.”

"We thought 27 years was justice and to be let out early would be just, it's sickening," Briggs said.

Lance Briggs was fighting overseas as his daughter, Kesley, was fighting for her life. She died from child abuse and no one was convicted for her murder. Porter was charged, he pled down, and received a 30-year sentence in exchange for his testimony against Smith.

“I believe she’s the one that killed Kelsey,” Briggs said.

Kelsey's grandfather, Royce Briggs, will be at the hearing with Kelsey's grandmother and other family members on Monday.

"I do understand, and I do believe there are people in prison that have been over-sentenced." Royce Briggs said. "Raye Dawn was not one of them."

Raye Dawn Smith’s Commutation Request

In her commutation application, Smith denies any involvement in her daughter's death. 

Morgan Hale with the nonprofit Project Commutation is helping Smith make her case for an early release. While in prison, Smith has completed 74 rehabilitation programs and served as a faith and character advisor for other inmates while earning two degrees, among other things.

“Commutation is really about looking at excessive sentences and it is a disparity issue,” Hale said. “[Porter] receiving 30 years for murdering Kelsey Briggs and Raye Dawn receiving 27 years for ‘something she should have known.’”

Smith has had no disciplinary issues and her records show she plans to get her master's degree and stay far away from her past life.

Briggs says Smith needs to serve 85 percent of her sentence and that anything less would be a miscarriage of justice.

Briggs and other family members began protesting to the Pardon and Parole Board last week when they received a notification about the commutation hearing.

Lincoln County District Attorney Adam Panter also sent the board a letter, which says in part, “She should be shown the exact same mercy she gave to her own child, which was to do absolutely nothing."

Panter reminded the board that Kelsey’s death was slow and agonizing.

The district attorney and Briggs will be allowed to speak at the hearing next Monday. Smith’s supporters will be allowed to address the board on Tuesday.

Stage two of Smith’s commutation hearing will take place when the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board meets June 3-5. Briggs and supporters are expected to speak on Monday. Smith and her supporters are expected to address the board on Tuesday afternoon. If she receives three of five votes the commutation request will head to the governor.