Judge sets Kalvin Michael Smith free, but the fight will continue

Judge sets Kalvin Michael Smith free, but the fight will continue
November 10
14:30 2016

Kalvin Michael Smith is a free man.

During a short hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 9, representatives from Holton Law Firm argued that Smith’s trial attorney failed to present information that would have reduced his sentence for armed robbery to a maximum of 9-10 years.

Attorney Cheryl Andrews said that during the original trial, mitigating factors such as Smith’s behavior while in incarcerated, work history, and strong family support should have been taken into consideration when deciding his fate. After listening to the information presented by Andrews and Walter C. Holton Jr., Judge Todd Burke granted the motion and Smith’s handcuffs were removed.

“God is good,” shouted Augustus Dark, Smith’s father after the ruling.

Dark said, “This is a day I have been looking forward to for a long time. I can’t put into words all the emotions that are going through my head.”

Smith was sentenced to 29 years in 1997 for the robbery and brutal beating of Jill Marker inside the Silk Plant Forest store that left the pregnant woman with severe brain damage and blindness. The entire time Smith has maintained his innocence and much of the evidence unveiled in recent years proves that. For nearly a decade, the Silk Plant Forest Truth Committee, local and state activists, and a number of other organizations including students from local colleges and universities have joined the fight to prove Smith’s innocence, and many were on hand to see the shackles removed.

While Burke’s ruling makes Smith a free man, he is still not considered innocent in the court of law because, the motion filed only addresses the sentencing on the armed robbery charge. Smith supporters say they will continue the fight.

A statement from the Silk Plant Forest Truth Committee reads, “We are pleased with the release of Kalvin Michael Smith after almost two decades of wrongful incarceration. We are happy for Kalvin, his family and friends, and that he can rejoin them and our community. Today’s events however do not correct the miscarriage of justice he has suffered, the fundamental violation of his rights, or the nearly 20 years taken from him. We will continue to work toward the day that he is fully exonerated as the facts indisputably dictate, his full citizenship is restored and he can put this travesty behind him.”

Just outside the courtroom, state NAACP president the Rev. Dr. William Barber II said, “A good man is going home.

“This is what happens when we all come together and stand for justice,” continued Barber. “Today is a big step, but not the end of the journey. Today we celebrate but the celebration will not put us in a daze. There is still work to be done.”

One of Smith’s attorneys, James Coleman with The Duke University Wrongful Conviction Clinic, said he and his colleagues will begin working on proving Smith’s innocence as soon as possible.

“It’s clear that this is only the beginning. He never should have been in prison in the first place, so letting him out now is not the goal,” Coleman said.

An issue with the paper work forced Smith to spend one more night behind bars at the Forsyth Correctional Center near Cherry Street. During a short interview with The Chronicle, Dark said earlier this week that Smith mentioned that he had not been outside at night in nearly two decades. Dark said he will change that tonight.

“First, we’ll probably cry for about six or seven hours then we’re going to go on a long walk tonight,” said Dark. “My son hasn’t been outside by himself in 20 years but tonight he’ll l have that opportunity.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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