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Kelsey Briggs’ mother to ask for reduced sentence

Posted at 6:00 PM, May 31, 2024

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Nearly 20 years later, a high-profile child abuse case is back in the headlines.

On June 3, Raye Dawn Smith will ask the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to commute her sentence.

In 2005, Smith came home to find an ambulance in her driveway. Her daughter, Kelsey Briggs, 2, was dead.

Smith’s new husband, Michael Porter, was originally charged with first-degree murder and sexual assault for the fatal beating.

However, in exchange for his testimony against Smith, took a plea deal for a lesser charge, enabling child abuse. Porter was convicted and sentenced to 30 years. Smith got 27 for the same charge.

Excessive sentencing is why Morgan Hale of Project Commutation, and Smith’s attorney, says Smith deserves a reduced sentence.

Porter also got placed in protective custody. That means he is unsearchable on the Department of Corrections’ offender registry. Inmates do not know details of his conviction. It is unclear whether he is in an Oklahoma prison, or a prison at all.

“DOC hides him because it was a child crime and that is very dangerous to have known while you’re in the Department of Corrections,” said Hale. “They protected him while they did not offer the same for Raye Dawn.”

For family members fighting for Kelsey’s justice like Royce Briggs, Kelsey’s grandfather, prison is where Smith should stay.

“It doesn’t seem like there is any way that 27 years is too excessive,” said Briggs.

Briggs said he watched for months as Kelsey’s spirit diminished and her body became bruised and broken-boned.

“I wish she would have been a decent mom,” said Briggs. “Not even a model mom. If she were to just on the bare necessities take care of Kelsey, she would still be alive today.”

10 months prior to Kelsey’s death, the Department of Human Services was investigating signs of abuse. Because she had been in back-and-forth care between the grandparents and Smith, 2 News is told the responsible party was unclear.

Ultimately, the judge put Kelsey back in the care of Smith.

Hale says her client feels guilty for not knowing Porter abused her child, but that she wasn’t alone.

“No adult, no doctor, no case worker, no one caught on to what Michael Porter was perpetrating,” she said.

Oklahoma statutes define failing to protect a child as a parent “knowing” or “should have known” about the abuse.

Prosecutors believe Smith should have known. Advocates argue she simply did not.

The commutation hearing begins on Monday. If approved by the board, a commutation request will be decided by Governor Kevin Stitt.

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