After more than two weeks of testimony, jurors deliberated about 3½ hours Friday. At least one female juror cried as the verdict was read.
Lead prosecutor Jesse Evans said jurors were attentive and conscientious.
“There’s no such thing as closure in a murder case like this,” Evans said. “You’re never going to stop loving that loved one that is not with you anymore. It’s maybe the beginning point toward the healing process, a point that they didn’t get in 1995 when Karmen Smith was laid to rest.”
Several of the 14 jurors — seven men and seven women, including two alternates — returned to the courtroom after the verdict to hear about the sentencing.
Daker was convicted of 11 charges related to the events that occurred Oct. 23, 1995, in the residence at 1580 Old Hunter’s Trace in east Cobb. The charges were malice murder; four felony murder counts; two burglary counts; false imprisonment; aggravated assault; aggravated battery against Nick Smith; and criminal attempt to commit aggravated stalking against Loretta Spencer Blatz.
Karmen and Nick Smith lived in a basement apartment of the home. Spencer Blatz lived in the upstairs part of the home, and in 1996, Daker was convicted of stalking Spencer Blatz and spent a decade in prison. He was released in 2006.
In 2009, Cobb Police Detective John Dawes pulled the cold case file and sent evidence for more testing. A hair found under the sweater that was on Karmen Smith’s body was submitted for nuclear DNA testing, which wasn’t available at the time of the murder. The results showed it was Daker’s hair.
Daker had argued the hair must have come from a sample he gave to investigators after the killing, but he offered no evidence of any mishandling.
Jim Horan, who is Nick Smith’s uncle and was a brother-in-law to Karmen Smith, spoke on behalf of the family after the verdict and thanked the District Attorney’s Office, Cobb Police detectives, and jurors “for seeing the truth.”
“Karmen was full of life. She was a beautiful, caring, outgoing mom whose son, Nick, was the No. 1 thing in her life. She was taken from us way too soon by a savage monster. Nick, as you can see, has turned into an outstanding young man that we are all very proud of, and we know that Karmen smiles down on him every day.
“Today is not a great day for our family. It is just another day without our sister, our mom, our daughter, Karmen,” Horan said. “We miss her every day, and we are glad that justice has been done.”
Evans said the investigation into the case spanned 17 years.
“We didn’t stop investigating till the day we started our trial,” he said.
The maximum sentence Daker could get is life plus about 45 years, Evans said.
“Because he’s convicted of murder and because this offense was committed in ’95, he is eligible for parole under the guidelines that applied in 1995,” Evans said.
He did not think the verdict would have been different had Daker had been represented by an attorney.
“The facts and the evidence were the same,” Evans said. “It was probably more challenging in many procedural respects because he was representing himself. But I don’t think how the case was presented would be any different. I would certainly hope the results wouldn’t be different just because he had a lawyer on the other side. Pretty strong evidence when you’re talking about DNA found actually on a deceased body of a victim.”
Before court recessed after the verdict, Jason Treadaway, who was appointed as Daker’s standby counsel as Daker acted as his own lawyer, filed a motion for a new trial. Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary E. Staley said she would take that up after sentencing, which is set for 10 a.m. Monday.