“State of Alabama vs. Brittany Smith,” a Netflix documentary recounting the case of a woman who claimed she shot and killed the man who raped her in self-defense, was released on the streaming service Thursday.
The documentary, which features interviews with Pulitzer Prize-winning AL.com reporter Ashley Remkus, who reported on Smith’s ordeal, explores whether women can successfully defend themselves using Alabama’s Stand Your Ground law.
“Are women able to use the system to defend themselves in the way that men are?” Remkus asks in the trailer for “State of Alabama vs Brittany Smith.”
Smith’s story drew national media attention and raised questions about how abused women are treated in the Alabama criminal justice system.
At the Stand Your Ground hearing, Brittany testified that Todd Smith (no relation) had raped and choked her hours before the deadly shooting in Stevenson, Ala. on Jan. 16, 2018. And a nurse testified that a sexual assault exam performed after the shooting found more than 30 injuries on Brittany’s neck, chest, breast, legs, arms and feet. There were hand-print marks around Brittany’s neck, finger-shaped marks on her inner thighs and bite marks on her neck and chin.
Smith argued that she killed Todd Smith in defense of herself and her brother, Chris McCallie. She testified that when her brother came over to confront Todd about the rape, the men fought. She told a judge that she fatally shot Todd while he held her brother in a headlock and threatened to kill them all.
“I did what I thought I had to do,” Brittany Smith says in the trailer for the documentary. “Because if I wouldn’t have, my brother and I both would be dead.”
Holt denied Brittany’s request for immunity from prosecution under Alabama’s self-defense law, saying she had not proven that the killing was legally justified.
That decision set off a series of appeals. Brittany and her lawyers unsuccessfully urged the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and the state’s Supreme Court to overturn Holt’s Stand Your Ground ruling. The defense also lost appeals to have Holt removed from the case, alleging she was biased against Brittany. The judge denied those allegations.
Ultimately, Brittany Smith accepted a plea deal sentencing her to time served and was released from jail.
But the mother of four returned to jail in October 2021 for allegedly violating the terms of her probation by participating in her children’s Trunk-or-Treat event in Stevenson.
The documentary also features interviews with Brittany Smith, her mother and McCallie.