Cooper’s spokesperson misleads public with statement

Cooper’s spokesperson misleads public with statement
March 03
00:00 2016
Roy Cooper

By Concerned Students for Kalvin Michael Smith

On Thursday, Feb. 18, we brought students together from Wake Forest University, Winston Salem State University, and Salem College to do what Attorney General Roy Cooper has actively refused to do for the past eight years: to publicly declare our outrage at the failure of our criminal justice system in keeping Kalvin Michael Smith incarcerated.

We urged Mr. Cooper to act in the Silk Plant Forest Case, to uphold the oath of his office and to usher in the long-awaited justice that Kalvin Michael Smith, Jill Marker, and our community deserve, but instead, Mr. Cooper’s office released a statement that misleads the public and evades his prosecutorial responsibilities. In response to over 150 students converging to call on A.G. Cooper to join Kalvin’s defense counsel in petitioning the Superior Court to vacate the 1997 wrongful conviction, Cooper’s spokeswoman, Noelle Talley, was quoted in the Winston-Salem Journal, saying: “We understand the community’s concerns, and we want to work with them on systemic issues in the criminal justice system,” Talley said. “But at this point in the legal process, only a court of law can overturn Kalvin Smith’s conviction and release him from prison.”

To admit there are “systemic issues” in our criminal justice system necessitates addressing the havoc that those “systemic issues” have wrought on specific people’s lives—on Kalvin Michael Smith’s life.

A.G. Roy Cooper has the power to review the case, to review former FBI Assistant Director Christopher Swecker’s report, and to join the defense counsel, Duke University Professor James Coleman Jr., in a motion to vacate the conviction.

A.G. Cooper is no stranger to Mr. Swecker, a former Assistant Director of the FBI; Mr. Cooper entrusted him in 2010 to audit thousands of cases from the SBI Forensic Lab. Mr. Swecker’s investigation reported over 200 cases of malfeasance that violated the constitutional rights of defendants, and Mr. Cooper followed his recommendations.

However, in Kalvin Michael Smith’s case, Mr. Cooper has actively ignored Mr. Swecker’s review, refusing to even meet with him.

There is also precedent for what we are asking Mr. Cooper as a state prosecutor to do. In 2004, Forsyth District Attorney Tom Keith filed jointly with Darryl Hunt’s defense counsel to overturn his wrongful conviction. Similarly, Mr. Cooper did not hesitate to intervene, investigate and exercise his prosecutorial discretion in the 2006 Duke lacrosse case to dismiss the charges against three-wrongfully charged affluent white men. Yet Mr. Cooper remains silent about this injustice facing Kalvin Michael Smith, a working-class black man.

We believe that prosecutorial ethics require Mr. Cooper to meet with former Assistant FBI Director Christopher Swecker and to acknowledge the truth that his review uncovered. The truth, as the Swecker Report states, that “only a new trial that considers the full record and evidence not available, misrepresented or omitted in the original trial” will provide the full measure of justice deserved.

Mr. Cooper should also meet with Winston-Salem Police Department’s Lt. Joseph Ferrelli and Sgt. Chuck Byrom, who led an 18-month review of the case which found there to be “no credible evidence” that Kalvin was at the crime scene and concluded “no confidence” in the original police investigation.

Mr. Cooper should meet with these men immediately and meet in public.

Hayden Abene from Wake Forest University, Jaylon Herbin from Winston-Salem State University and Virginia Parnell from Salem College.

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