Smith supporters are undeterred

Smith supporters are undeterred
August 25
08:00 2016

N.C. Supreme Court denies appeal; case is getting national attention in a new MTV series.



Even as the N.C. Supreme Court rejects Kalvin Michael Smith’s appeal, the case is getting national attention from a MTV documentary series that activists hope will make a difference in the controversial case.

Smith is serving up to 29 years for the 1995 assault of Jill Marker at the Silk Plant Forest store that left her with severe brain injuries. He has many supporters who were disappointed by the state Supreme Court decision.

“It missed an opportunity to restore the confidence of many in our community in the North Carolina criminal justice system,” said Stephen Boyd, co-chair of The Silk Plant Forest Truth Committee, a group of advocates who believe Smith is innocent.

Smith’s attorney, James Coleman, co-director of Duke University law school’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic, said the case is not over.

“We just lost one issue and as soon as we can draft the papers, we’re going to go back into court and raise additional claims,” he said.

Coleman said the clinic has so far gotten six exonerations. He said normally the prosecutor will agree that there was a wrongful conviction in the case. That hasn’t happened in this case, which has been handled since 2008 by the attorney general’s office of Roy Cooper, who is now running for governor.

The committee continues to advocate for Smith online by posting links to a documentary series featuring his case. “Unlocking the Truth” premiered on MTV last week. The series follows Ryan Ferguson, who was exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of murder, as he looks into others’ claims of innocence. Smith’s is one of only three cases of alleged wrongful conviction to be shown in the series so far.

Boyd, a Wake Forest University religion professor, said if Smith gets national attention, it should become an state, like HB2 has been to many.

“It will become a national embarrassment, we believe, for North Carolina,” said Boyd. “and then the question is what will the attorney general do about that?”

HB2, a law many believe is discriminatory, is resulting in boycotts of the state. Cooper has refused to defend the law in court. Supporters of Smith, including the N.C. NAACP, have been asking Cooper to do the same with the Smith case and join Coleman in asking for a new trial.

Boyd said that the committee has sent reports to Cooper on the case’s flaws. One was from the Silk Plant Forest Citizens Review Committee, which was empaneled by the City Council to review the original case, which concluded it did not have “confidence in the investigation”  and found no credible evidence Smith was at  Silk Plant Forest. The other was from former Assistant FBI Director Christopher Swecker, who determined a new trial was needed to answer serious questions about the case.

The N.C. Supreme Court denied Smith’s appeal last week, which focused on a 2008 affidavit in which police officer Arnita Miles said Marker identified her attacker as a black man. In Miles’ original report she said Marker was incoherent and could not describe the attacker. Coleman said that he believes prosecutors may have secretly used it to influence the case, though it was not filed in court.

Smith’s appeals also accuse Detective Don Williams of not pursuing a white suspect, Kenneth Lamoureux, after he moved out of town, and instead coerced witnesses to place Smith at the crime scene. Lamoureux died in 2011.

“Unlocking the Truth” airs Wednesdays at 11 p.m. on MTV. It can also be watched online at Check out the schedule at s/unlocking-the-truth/tv-schedule.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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