Life Without Possibility of Parole...
The jury foreman cited Smithson's lack of a prior criminal record and his use of drugs the night the 23-year-old Shephard was killed, as the mitigating reasons Smithson avoided the death penalty.
When the sentence was read, Smith embraced his lawyer Mary Beth Welch who argued the penalty phase of his trial.
ADA Tom Lawrie pronounced the DAs office "most satisfied" with both the verdict and the sentence.
"The jury had no difficulty of finding the defendant guilty of all charges," he said.
The verdict, he said, reflected the jury's "outrage and disgust" with what happened to the victim that night. Only the lack of a previous criminal record prevented Smithson from getting the death penalty, Lawrie said.
Karla Afshari, Jason's sister, read a brief statement to reporters outside the DA's office.
"We are grateful Jason was able to have his voice heard and it was understood. Now we are able to focus on how he lived and for our family, not how he died."
The family declined to take any other questions.
During her closing statement to the jury Welch said the "ultimate punishment" was reserved for criminals for whom no redeeming or mitigating factors could be found.
She also asked for the jury to consider "mercy" but that was objected to by ADA Lawrie who said it was not proper to consider that as a mitigating factor.
"Mercy is an emotional response," he said.
Judge Barry Dozor sustained Lawrie's objection.
After a string of family members and friends testified to his good qualities, helpfulness and decency, Smithson took the stand to tell the jury about himself, his life as a closeted gay man and his descent into a culture of drugs and sex.
He said he didn't know he was gay until his mid 30s, though he sexually experimented with his friend Rob Nardello, starting when he was 19 and for some years after that.
Nardello described Smithson as a "friend with benefits" and said the two kept their sexual liasons a secret from their other friends and family.
Smithson said he considered himself a bisexual until his fell for his "first love," another man.
After they broke up, he said he "struggled" with "living in a homophobic society."
When that relationship ended, he said, "It was tough for me. A first love is so important, so big. It took me a hard time to recover from that."
He said he met a gay man online who introduced him to crystal meth. He started out snorting it and then injecting it some years later.
He started out using it just to be able to stay up and party longer and drink more. But then it became something of an end in itself.
"The more you do the more you want to do," he said of the drug.
He said he'd stay awake for three days straight, Friday through Sunday, and eventually up to six days straight.
And then he would "crash and crash hard."
Under cross examination, Smithson said he did meth with doctors lawyers and lobbyists from New York City to Washington D.C.
Even as his drug habit became more and more steady, he said "my work performance was always excellent.
"I learned how to manage the drugs, to pull back to manage the work."
He said he purchased drugs for his own use and occasionally shared them with friends.
When Lawrie asked him about a discussion with his former boyfriend Dan Hall concerning the use of GHB to intoxicate someone for the purpose of having sex, Welch objected. After a sidebar, Dozor sustained the objection.
It is probable that appeals will be filed in this case, though there's no telling what the grounds will be.
Having not taken the stand in his own defense during the trial, Smithson couldn't be asked any questions about his actions the night of the crime itself. The man, Smithson's lawyer, suggested had committed the murder, F. Bruce Covington still has to go on trial on assorted drug charges.
I'll be writing about the case for Wednesday's print column.