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Convict trying to avoid testifying against lover

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Charles Smith, the 51-year-old former cop, who killed his girlfriend's husband, doesn't want to testify against her.

Smith pleaded guilty in June, saying he ambushed, shot and killed Donald Ray Skinner, because he loved the man's wife, Carolyn Allene Skinner, and because she wanted him to do it.

Smith accepted a life sentence for his crimes, but he doesn't want to testify against his lover, Allene Skinner, as she stands trial for murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

"I just wish to move on to prison and serve my time," Smith said, in a letter to a Clayton County Superior Court judge.

Prosecutors plan to put Smith on the stand during the trial, which is set to start Monday. They insist he has to testify, whether he wants to or not.

Smith confessed to the murder after he was arrested, and wanted to plead guilty in court, but waited while his defense attorney tried to get a plea deal. The attorney offered to exchange Smith's testimony for a lighter sentence, but the District Attorney's office wouldn't accept it. Now, according to prosecutor John Turner, they're going to force Smith to testify.

"He doesn't have the right not to," Turner said. "My plan is to call him to the stand ... I don't know what he'll say about her, but I know what he has said about her in his plea, and when he was talking to police. If he says anything different, I can impeach the [expletive] out of him."

Prosecutors plan to present evidence they say will show Allene Skinner wanted her husband dead, and was planning to collect on his life insurance policy. They argue that she conspired to kill him, and manipulated Smith to do what she wanted. They will allege that Skinner, 52, has had chronic money problems, was a constant liar, and continually manipulated men.

Prosecutors also allege that Allene Skinner tried to hire someone to kill her husband back in 1997, and told her daughter she'd found someone on the Internet who would kill Donald Skinner for round-trip airfare, and "hit money."

Allene Skinner's attorney, Malcolm Wells, has said the manipulations are all fantasies in Charles Smith's head, and described the former cop as conjuring visions of "Miami Vice." He argues that the only thing his client is guilty of is being attractive to men.

Smith, however, said he had his "head and heart warped" by the woman, and said he would never have killed a man if he hadn't met Allene Skinner.

Prosecutors want him to make that claim in front of a jury.

Turner talked to Smith, as part of the preparation for trial, and Smith is saying the county prosecutor intimidated him. "I advised Mr. Turner that I have nothing to say," Smith wrote, in a letter to Judge Geronda V. Carter. "I told him that I have the right to remain silent. He said that he would have you make me answer the question or find me in contempt and add time to my sentence."

According to Smith, Turner swore he would contact the parole board and tell them to deny Smith's applications to get out of prison.

"Mr. Turner was trying to force me to testify," Smith wrote. "I felt intimidated that he was going to hurt my chances at parole if I didn't testify."

Smith will be eligible to apply for parole in 30 years, when he is 80.

Smith's attorney, Joe Roberto, said the man doesn't want to testify, because "deep down, despite everything, he's still in love with Allene."