Winston-Salem, NC-- Friday, leaders with the city of Winston-Salem said they are not going to get involved in a petition to re-try a controversial criminal case that has been the center of attention since December 1995.
Jill Marker was found inside her business, The Silk Plant Forest, severely beaten. Marker was also pregnant when the attack happened.
Kalvin Michael Smith was charged with the crime and convicted. He and many of his supporters have maintained his innocence. The Duke University Law Innocence Commission is also involved in the case.
The city of Winston-Salem City Council established the Silk Plant Forest Citizen Review Committee (SPFCRC) to review the Winston-Salem Police Department's investigation of the Jill Marker-Silk Plant Forest case and other cases the SPFCRC determined to be plausibly related. From that, recommendations were made and the City Manager and the Police Chief took steps necessary to incorporate the recommendations.
Today, Winston-Salem City Council released this statement about whether or not to support committee's call to support reopening the case: "The Winston-Salem City Council recognizes that it is not within its jurisdiction to: (1) determine the guilt or innocence of Kalvin Michael Smith; (2) instruct the court system (state or federal) on how to conduct a review of any proceeding before it; or (3) instruct the Attorney General of the State of North Carolina regarding the handling of any criminal matter. While cognizant of such, the City voluntarily provided to the defense attorney and state information developed in the course of the SPFCRC review, consistent with state and federal law, filed a civil action seeking authorization for public disclosure of confidential personnel information generated during that process and presented to the North Carolina Court of Appeals oral arguments in support of the trial court's decision authorizing the release of said information. Public disclosure of the information has not occurred because the North Carolina Court of Appeals overruled the trial court's decision.
Most recently, the Winston-Salem City Council has been approached by concerned citizens asking it to file an amicus brief in the federal habeas corpus proceeding of Kalvin Michael Smith. The City Council consulted with the City Attorney and her staff regarding the request. After careful and thorough deliberations, the Winston-Salem City Council, on the advice of the City Attorney, has decided to refrain from filing an amicus brief. The City Council's opinion of the merits of Kalvin Michael Smith's petition for a writ of habeas corpus would not be legally relevant to the federal court's review of the petition."
The Duke Law Innoncence Commission responded saying the council is putting on a charade and taking a moral question and turning it into a "hyper-legal" one.
"I wish they were honest enough to say they just don't care how bad an investigation is, if it results in a conviction," Professor James Coleman, an advisor, wrote to News 2 in an email. "All of the other stuff is disingenuous."
Also, according to Coleman, the Innocence Project "took on the case because ther was no credible evidence Smith had any involvement in the case. There was no physical evidence, no motive, flawed eyewitness identification, destroyed evidence, and testimony from witnesses who claimed the police threatened them to give their statements. Our investigation, the City Council's investigation, and Swecker's investigation confirmed that and more."
Steve Boyd, a member of the city empanalled SPFCRC added, "[Smith has] been in prison for 15 years, he's got 14 more to go. No one should be subjected to this kind of treatment by a department of city government," he said. "There's nothing legal that prohibits the council from filling an amicus brief; anybody can tell the truth. And anybody should tell the truth to the court about the facts of the case."
City Council Member Derwin Montgomery also released a separate statement about the case pointedly disagreeing with his colleagues' postion. Read here
City of Winston-Salem/WFMY News 2