W-S council folds with a whimper

by YES! Staff

One can’t help but wonder what happened in the secrecy of the Winston-Salem City Council’s closed-door meetings about the fate of Kalvin Michael Smith.

Smith, of course, is the Winston-Salem resident currently behind bars after being convicted almost 15 years ago for the brutal beating of Jill Marker in the Silk Plant Forest store, in a trial that looks more and more like a farce. An independent citizens review committee concluded that Smith deserves a new trial based on shoddy and incomplete police work by the Winston-Salem Police Department. An independent consultant, who previously completed NC Attorney General Roy Cooper’s investigation into the SBI in the wake of its serology lab scandal, found that the jury in the original trial did not hear all the evidence, and that some of what it heard was not true.

And it seemed, after a July meeting, that city  council was prepared to follow the Silk Plant Forest Truth Committee in filing an amicus brief with the federal court in the hopes of securing a new trial. East Ward Councilman Derwin Montgomery was on board. So was Councilman James Taylor from the Southeast Ward. Support also came from South Ward Councilwoman Molly Leight, North Ward Councilwoman Denise D. Adams and Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burke. Those five votes would have been enough to move the amicus brief issue forward. But something happened after those two closed-door meetings with City Attorney Angela Carmon: The apparent majority folded.


Carmon’s statement, released Friday, said: “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.”

Taylor and Montgomery stand firm on the quest for justice. Montgomery issued a statement of his own saying, in part, “The final decision to do nothing is neither ‘careful’ nor ‘thorough.’ The council has failed its citizens by doing nothing because it sends a message that a person can be treated without regard by its police department, and the council, as the highest level of oversight, will not speak up.”

As of press time, the rest have not offered any explanation for their change of heart, leaving the field wide open for speculation.

It could be about money, as the SPFTC has speculated — a civil liability due if Smith gets a new trial and is found to have been wrongfully incarcerated. But as the SPFTC also points out in its letter to council, inaction at this point could aggravate a future settlement.

This is cowardice in the face of blatant and documented injustice that reveals all previous paeans to be nothing but lip service.

Dissenting voters on council do a disservice to the very thing they stand to protect. They do a disservice to Smith. And they do a disservice to the citizens of Winston-Salem. As such they are unfit to hold public office.

If this can happen to Kalvin Michael Smith, it can happen to any of us.

And the Winston-Salem City Council has shown that they will do nothing when it does.

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