Witnesses Testify That Convicted Murderer Should Be Released from Prison

CLEARFIELD – Several witnesses testified that a convicted murderer should be released from prison, including the victim’s son, during a re-sentencing hearing Monday.

Timothy Hanson, now 45, formerly of Philipsburg, was 15 years old when he shot and killed David Smith at Hanson’s home on Christmas Eve in 1987.

He was convicted of first-degree murder after a trial in June of 1988. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole, a sentence which since then has been deemed unconstitutional for juvenile offenders.

The cases against Hanson and two other juveniles serving life sentences without the possibility of parole are returning to Clearfield County for re-sentencing.

In order to receive the same sentence, the Commonwealth has to prove that they can not be rehabilitated. The minimum sentence for 15-year-olds convicted of first-degree murder is 35 years in prison.

Hanson’s case was scheduled for court Monday, but there was a disagreement whether it was actually a status conference to discuss the progress of the case or if it was an actual sentencing hearing.

David B. Fawcett, attorney for Hanson, had arranged for several witnesses to testify on Hanson’s behalf while District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. stated his expert was not on hand or ready to conclude his report.

Senior Judge David Grine of Centre County decided that the witnesses would be allowed to testify as long as the hearing can be continued with the Commonwealth’s position and witnesses speaking at a later date.

Fawcett called two counselors and a Department of Corrections employee that runs the prison library at SCI Camp Hill where Hanson works in the law library, to the stand.

First was Matthew Grimes, who described Hanson as thoughtful, and said he was very helpful to the inmates who visit the law library.

Although many incarcerated men have resentment, Grimes said “I do not see that with Mr. Hanson.” He has a desire to help others and wants to be a productive member of society, he added.

Grimes said Hanson is unlikely to re-offend and recommended he be paroled.

During his cross examination, Shaw noted that Hanson had not taken responsibility for his crime and asked how Hanson can be rehabilitated for murder when he can’t admit he committed the murder.

Grimes did admit that accountability is important to that process.

Shaw asked similar questions to the other DOC employees who testified about Hanson’s life and impact on the prison.

A social worker testified that she had spoken with Hanson and reviewed his records. She detailed his early life where he had permissive parents and missed a lot of school. He also spent time in a juvenile facility for burglary.

She pointed out that he was not very educated when he entered prison, but he has taken advantage of the opportunities available in prison to better himself.

At the end of the day’s testimony, Dustin Smith, David Smith’s son, said he wanted to make a statement on behalf of his family.

He said they did not “wish to see him incarcerated any more.” He went on to say they wanted Hanson to be able to contribute to society and they believe he deserves a second chance.

Shaw asked for 90 days to prepare his part of the case, but Fawcett objected to this saying they have had years to get ready for this hearing.

Shaw noted that the Supreme Court ruling in 2012 opened the door for this process, but there was no guideline on how to proceed until June of this year after a decision in a second case.

He commented that Fawcett had bull-dozed what was supposed to be a status conference into a re-sentencing hearing.

Shaw also noted this is not the only case he is currently dealing with and his expert is actually busy preparing for another homicide trial scheduled for the end of January.

Grine asked that the Commonwealth’s expert report be submitted by Feb. 15 and said a new court date will be set to continue the hearing.

Court records describing the original trial show that Hanson was at his home with his brother, Tom and Tom’s girlfriend, Betty Jo Wootan when Smith came to the door.

Tom and Betty Jo testified that Tom opened the door for Smith and Tim loaded Tom’s shotgun. They said Tim then fired a single shot past Tom that killed Smith.

Tim Hanson testified that it was Tom that shot Smith accidentally during a prank. Originally Tim Hanson told police he was trying to fix the gun when it fired accidentally.

Tom submitted to a test to see if he had recently fired a gun that proved inconclusive. Tim Hanson refused the test.

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