by Keith Barber

Winston-Salem appeals case to NC Supreme Court

Last week, the city of Winston-Salem filed a petition for discretionary review with the NC Supreme Court to appeal a decision by the NC Court of Appeals regarding the release of statements made by a number of current and former Winston-Salem police officers to a citizens review committee. Last month, the NC Court of Appeals reversed a decision by Superior Court Judge Richard Stone to release statements obtained by the Silk Plant Forest Citizens Review Committee.

The city of Winston-Salem wants the courts to release statements made by the current and former Winston-Salem police officers involved in the criminal investigation of the 1995 Jill Marker-Silk Plant Forest assault case. Kalvin Michael Smith was convicted by a Forsyth County jury of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and armed robbery. He has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence.

A citizens review committee appointed by Winston-Salem City Council concluded in 2009 that there was no credible evidence to link Smith to the crime. The committee also stated it did not have confidence in the police investigation or the result of the investigation and that investigators failed to follow proper procedures.

In its ruling, the three-judge panel ruled that transcripts of the interviews should be considered part of the officers’ personnel records and therefore confidential as mandated by state law. In its petition, the city of Winston-Salem notes that the NC Court of Appeals decision states that “there are circumstances when justice requires that an individual, or perhaps a group of individuals sharing a common goal be permitted to examine a relevant portion of a city employee’s personnel file.” Therefore, any number of individuals with the goal of having a transparent government is no different from granting that same level of access to the general public, the city’s petition states.