Court affirms ruling in prison drug murder |

Court affirms ruling in prison drug murder

The Nevada Supreme Court has upheld Carson District Judge Mike Griffin’s ruling in a prison murder case.

Tony Martin Smith was convicted in July 1999 of first-degree murder, burglary, robbery and conspiracy. Griffin sentenced Smith to two consecutive and two concurrent life terms without possible parole and, on appeal, rejected his petition for a new trial.

He and Robert Rowland, members of a prison gang named “God Forgives, Brothers Don’t,” forced their way into the prison cell of Steven Silva and beat him to death because he refused to give them his methadone pills.

Smith, 38, took his arguments that his appointed counsel was ineffective to the Nevada Supreme Court.

He claimed his two lawyers failed to call the 10 witnesses he said could help his case. However, there was no evidence of who those witnesses were, and the attorneys couldn’t recall ever receiving such a list. He also failed to give any specifics as to what those witnesses could testify.

Instead, he testified at trial about his alibi and two witnesses backed that story.

But the high court noted the jury chose not to believe him.

He also claimed he should not have been allowed to give his own opening statement at trial. His lawyer testified in a hearing that she warned him about the dangers of giving his own opening statement, but that she wrote his opening statement for him.

The court also rejected his complaint his lawyer should have prevented introduction of evidence he is a gang member instead of having him refer to that in his opening statement. His lawyer said she decided to address the gang membership because the prosecution was planning to introduce that evidence as part of its case.

The high court rejected all Smith’s claims and ruled Griffin was correct in denying Smith a new trial.

Smith is being held at Ely State Prison, Nevada’s institution for the most dangerous and violent criminals in the system.

— Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.