MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A former Shelby County medical examiner once embroiled in controversy has died.
O.C. Smith spent years working some of the Bluff City’s biggest cases before he ended up at the center of a case that made national headlines.
Smith died Tuesday morning, according to Pastor Bob White with Salem Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Atoka. Services are pending with Munford Funeral Home: Millington.
“I met O.C. Smith in the late ’70s, early ’80s,” said Leslie Ballin, a prominent Memphis attorney. “He was a very interesting man, military history. There were stories about him being a mercenary years ago.”
Ballin describes Smith as smart, a straight shooter who could explain to jurors what he was talking about in terms they could understand. He says Smith was a medical examiner who was accessible and told it like it was.
I remember Smith frequently showing up at crime scenes.
But it was his name in the headlines here and across the country in the early 2000s. Smith was discovered by a security officer in 2002 in a stairwell outside the medical examiner’s office.
He was handcuffed to a window guard with barbed wire wrapped around his face and a motion-sensitive bomb strapped to his chest.
Smith sat down with WMC four years later in 2006. I asked him if he thought he was going to die.
“I never looked that far ahead,” he said.
It was the first time Smith talked about the incident. He said initially a man threw acid on his face.
It wasn’t long before Smith went from being a victim to a suspect. Prosecutors took him to federal court, claiming he did it to himself. They cited his minor injuries as evidence.
But Ballin echoes what some people believed.
“It didn’t seem possible for him to do it to himself,” said Ballin.
The trial ended with a hung jury and the judge issued a mistrial. Prosecutors never tried Smith again.
The case had a devastating effect on the very dedicated medical examiner.
“It was the end of his career,” said Ballin."
Ballin and other local attorneys used Smith as an expert witness. I asked him about Smith’s legacy.
“He was as smart as they come, textbook intelligence, articulate,” said Ballin. “He was an effective witness in the courtroom in spite of weirdness. He was a nice guy.”
That’s exactly the way I remember O.C. Smith.