Students send another message to Cooper

Students send another message to Cooper
April 28
05:50 2016

Photo by Tevin Stinson

Students from the three universities in Winston-Salem listen during the rally held outside the Forsyth County Courthouse on Sunday, April 24 to urge Roy Cooper to free Kalvin Michael Smith and others. 

Rally and march held to urge attorney general to release two wrongly convicted men



More than two dozen students marched through downtown last Sunday evening demanding N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper free Kalvin Michael Smith and others serving prison sentences for crimes they didn’t commit.

As the students from Salem College, Wake Forest, and Winston-Salem State University marched to the Forsyth County Courthouse , shouts of “free Kalvin now” and “Cooper do your job” could be heard from blocks away.

Calvin Michael Smith is serving up to 29 years in prison for the 1995 assault of Jill Marker at the Silk Plant Forest store that left her with server brain injuries and blindness.

Although police have no physical evidence linking Smith to the crime, and no witnesses placing him at the scene of the crime, Attorney General Roy Cooper refuses to do anything in Smith’s case.

Over the years, Smith has had many appeals denied. The latest appeal in the Smith case involves accusations about the lead detective. According to court papers, Detective Don Williams told his brother Ricky Williams that he believed a white man committed the Silk Plant Forest assault.

The Silk Plant Forest Truth Committee, the N.C. NAACP, the students from the three universities and number of other organizations have held a number of rallies and other events to persuade Cooper to free Smith. Last month students delivered a banner to Cooper’s office with more than 200 signatures demanding Smith’s release.

During a press conference held earlier this year, Wake Forest professor of religion Dr. Stephen Boyd said it is important that the younger generation get involved because they are the voices of the future. He mentioned students have been studying the case for months and are committed to carrying on the effort.

“The students are excited about carrying on the fight,” Boyd said.

Boyd, who recently released a book discussing the handling of the Darryl Hunt trial entitled “Making Justice Our Business: The Wrongful Conviction of Darryl Hunt and the Work of Faith,” said, “Thirty-three judges denied Hunt’s appeals and when the DNA came back, they were all wrong and that’s what it is now.”

Before marching to the courthouse, co-chair of the Silk Plant Forest Truth Committee Ann Donovan gave students an update on the fight to free Smith. She said Cooper continues to tell the public that only a court of law can overturn Smith’s conviction and free him from prison.

“That may be true, but Roy Cooper could and should join with the defense and movement to free an innocent man,“ Donovan said.

Smith’s father, Augustus Dark, told the students that he was grateful for all they have done to prove his son’s innocence. He also told the students to continue the fight for others who are wrongfully convicted as well.

Students also called for the immediate release of Dontae Sharpe. Sharpe is serving a life sentence for the murder of George Radcliff, who was found shot to death in his pickup truck in West Greenville, N.C. on Feb. 11, 1994.

Sharpe has maintained his innocence since the day he was arrested. He even denied a plea deal offered by the Pitt County District Attorney Office. According to reports, a number witnesses have recanted their statements as well.

Similar to Smith, Sharpe has filed appeal after appeal, but has seen no change.

WSSU associate professor of political science and former leader of the local chapter of the Black Panther Party, Dr. Larry Little, recently made a public demand for the immediate release of Smith and Sharpe as well.

“We continue to lag behind in the area of social justice,” he said.  “Keep fire on Attorney General Roy Cooper. He could have stopped this a long time ago.”

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Wali Pitt

Wali Pitt

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