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SAVONA TEEN FOUND GUILTY OF MURDER, FACES 9 YEARS TO LIFE

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A jury Tuesday night found Eric Smith guilty of second-degree murder in the brutal killing of 4-year-old Derrick Robie last August.

The jury reached a verdict against the teen-ager just before 10 p.m. Tuesday in the case that has drawn national attention.

Eric admitted to state police that he lured the child into a wooded area in the nearby Village of Savona on Aug. 2, 1993, choked him, beat him with rocks and finally sodomized him with a stick.

As Eric's mother, Tammy, and stepfather, Ted Smith, stood in the front row of the spectators section, crying and holding each other, the jurors left the courtroom without comment. They deliberated for seven hours before reaching the verdict.

Eric, standing with his attorneys, Kevin Bradley and Joe Pelych, showed no emotion. He faces a maximum sentence of nine years to life in prison.

His attorneys claimed the 14-year-old, with red hair, thick glasses and slight physique, suffers from fits of uncontrollable rage and does not have the mental capacity to be convicted of murder.

By convicting him of second-degree murder, jurors found that Eric had a conscious objective to intentionally cause Derrick's death. They also rejected two less severe charges of manslaughter against the teen-ager.

"We can't fault the jurors. They paid attention. They gave the case the detailed attention it needed," Pelych said.

Pelych went on to praise prosecutor John Tunney, who had urged the jury to reject the "rage disorder" defense.

"John Tunney did a good job," Pelych said. "Of course, we disagree with the verdict."

Tunney praised the jury.

"I think they did the responsible thing. They dealt with the law. They did the right thing," he said.

The defense argued that Eric suffers from "intermittent explosive disorder," a rare condition characterized by discrete episodes in which a person cannot control violent impulses.

The prosecution depicted him as a methodical killer who was comfortable with cruelty, lured his victim into a trap and tried to cover his tracks.

Twice after getting the case in late morning, the six men and six women returned to the courtroom to ask Steuben County Judge Donald G. Purple to clarify his instructions as to the possible verdicts.

Purple spent 1 1/2 hours explaining to jurors how Eric Smith could be found guilty of either second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter or second-degree manslaughter.

Jurors were asked to decide whether Eric was suffering from a mental disease or defect or was under "extreme emotional disturbance" when he killed Derrick. If they were to agree that he was, the verdict would be reduced to manslaughter, the judge said earlier Tuesday. The case then would have been moved to Family Court, where Eric would have faced up to three years in juvenile detention.

"You may consider all emotions, such as passion, greed, resentment, fright, rage, hatred, excitement, agitation," Purple said.

And those emotions, he said, don't need to have occurred suddenly. "They may have simmered in the mind for a long time," he said.

The jury also could have found Eric guilty of first-degree manslaughter without the mitigating "extreme emotional disturbance" or of second-degree manslaughter.

The judge told jurors if they found that Eric suffers from a mental disorder, they must then determine if it is severe enough "that he lacked substantial capacity to know or appreciate the nature and consequences of his conduct."

He cautioned that a young person may know something but be unable to understand it.

News wire services contributed to this report.

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