By Chad Nance
On Saturday Oct. 27th, 2012 a round-table on the case of Kalvin Michael Smith was held at the Carter G. Woodson school as part of the Winston-Salem Black Panther Party Alumni Reuinon. Speaking at the round-table was Dr. Larry Little, Darryl Hunt, and the father of Kalvin Michael Smith, Agustus Dark. At the round-table, Hunt compared Smith’s case to his own, going as far as stating that the police involved with investigating and convicting Mr. Smith for the brutal beating of Jill Marker were the same officers who “Tried to kill me.”
Jill Marker was an employee at the Silk Plant Forrest Store that used to be located next to Toy’s R’ Us off of Hanes Mall Blvd. On December 9th 1995, sometime between 8:45pm and 8:55pm Ms. Marker was viciously beaten then left for dead. Ms. Marker’s injuries were so severe that they left her permanently brain damaged and functionally blind. The case was assigned to Det. DR Williams, who was also involved with the Hunt case.
The initial suspect in the Marker case was white-male and occasional mental patient Kenneth E. Lamoreux. The WSPD at the time was aware that Lamoreux already had contact with Marker previously and that he was considered to be “stalking” her. On February 12, 1996 Kenneth E. Lamoreux failed a lie-detector test regarding the Silk Forest attack. On February 14th Lamoreux phoned Det. Williams and asked about his test results offering an excuse as to why he might have failed.
At the time of the attack Lamoreux was under a domestic violence restraining order regarding violence against his ex-wife and had just been released from an involuntary stint in Forsyth Hospital’s psychiatric wing. According to witness, Jeana Shopfer, Marker had phoned her from the Silk Forest store on December 9th shortly before the attack and told her that Lamoreux had been in the store and asked Marker to go out with her. Marker refused and reportedly told Shopfer that Lamoreux had been hanging around the store. Lamoreux died in 2011.
Lamoreux was the initial focus of the WSPD efforts in the Marker case. Those efforts were reapplied to Kalvin Michael Smith on June 1, 1996 when one of Smith’s girl-friends, who was admittedly angry at Kalvin Michael Smith, phoned Crimestoppers and told them that Smith had admitted beating Marker to her.
On June 22, 1996 Kalvin Michael Smith passed a lie-detector test regarding the Silk Forest attack. It is also probable that he passed another four-days later on June 26th.
On October 31, 1996 Det. Williams went to Ohio to interview the victim, Jill Marker. At that time she did not identify Kalvin Michael Smith, but did identify Kenneth Lamoreux as having been in the Silk Forest Store on the evening of the attack.
According to a 2007 review by the Winston-Salem Police Department, investigative reporting by the Winston-Salem Journal, the Silk Plant Forest Citizens Review Committee in 2009, and an independent review completed by former FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker at the very least the investigation into the Silk Forest attack was bungled and botched. Yet… Kalvin Michael Smith has been incarcerated for 16 years for a crime that there was never tangible, physical evidence that he committed or was even present for.
At Saturday’s round-table Smith’s father, Augustus Dark, pointed out exactly what those 16 years have meant to the family of Kalvin Michael Smith. Mr. Dark pointed out that when he was first imprisoned in 1997 Michael (as Smith is called by friends and family) already had one son who was 8 years old. On October 9th 2012 that young man’s girl gave birth to Michael’s grandchild. “My son has been in prison for 16-years of his son’s life.” Mr. Dark stated, “Now he’s still in jail for his grand son’s life.”
“God gave us the gift of love.”, Mr. Dark continued, “and in that love he offers justice.” During his comments Mr. Dark relayed word from Michael in prison: “I’m not angry anymore. But it is so hard to be in the place.” Mr. Dark asked his son what he should say at the event and according to his father Michael simply said to “Just tell the truth.”
“This injustice has destroyed a family. Me, his mother, his children, and now our great grandson.” said Mr. Dark as he encouraged those present to become involved in the efforts to free his son.
Dr. Larry Little, former Winston-Salem Black Panthers leader and Winston-Salem city councilman kept his comments focused squarely on the idea of justice. “If you support Justice… support justice.” Dr. Little said referring to the August 2012 decision by the Winston-Salem City Council that saw almost all of the council men and women vote against the city filing an amicus brief in support of Smith receiving a new trial. Only two members of the City Council voted in support of the brief being written. Those members were Councilman Derwin Montgomery and Councilman James Taylor.
“Because this case is in the courts, some have stated that intervening is not the role of the city. I must beg to differ,” Councilman Montgomery in a statement in August. “This city, through the incompetent investigation led by D.R. Williams and his questionable tactics, failed Jill Marker and Kalvin Smith in its investigation. I believe if this city has impeded justice, it must do everything it can to right such a wrong, no matter at what stage it intervenes…”
Councilman James Taylor (who was also the vice-chair of the Silk Forest Citizen’s Committee that investigated the investigators) was equally emphatic stating, “I studied this for a year and six months of my life, so this is something I’m making an informed decision about. If Kalvin didn’t do it, then the assailant is still out on the streets and that bothers me. I don’t think anybody knows what happened, but based on the information that I’ve seen, it appears that we may have an innocent man in prison.”
Dr. Little focused his comments on two African American members of the Council who voted against the city weighing in with an amicus brief. “You never know what Vivian is going to do. “Dr. Little said referring to Councilwoman Vivian Burke. “And Denise D. Adams went South on us.” Dr. Little claimed that both Burke and Adams had previously agreed to vote for the brief, but backed off at the last moment. “She [Adams] and Vivian did a 360 degree turn.” Mr. Little said.
At the time Vivian Burke gave comments to the Winston-Salem Chronicle stating, “If I felt that the officer and detectives who investigated this case had done something intentionally wrong and had a mean spirit about himself against someone (Smith), I could have looked at it differently, but I saw him investigating the case,” she stated. “If there was a mistake, it was up to the attorney to take care of his client and bring that into the court.”
State Rep. Earline Parmon attended the round table and during her comments she too mentioned the role that currently elected officials have taken in the case of Kalvin Michael Smith. “Here we are in 2012 fighting over the same issues. We got to elect people who will do the right thing.” Rep. Parmon said referring to the fact that both Dr. Little and Mr. Hunt explicitly linked both the Darryl Hunt case and Mr. Smith’s. In her comments in August Councilwoman Burke stated that she found no link or similarities in the Hunt and Smith cases. “He was pardoned by the state,” she said of Hunt. “They clearly saw that an error had been made in sentencing him.” Burke went on to take the City Attorney’s position that the City Council had no jurisdiction in the Smith case to make any kind of determination for the courts nor did it need too. “The committee is not the court – that’s the difference right there,” she stated. “…I’m not getting into the court’s business.” Burke told The Chronicle at the time.
“You can get in trouble in three minutes.” Darryl Hunt said during his remarks, “But it can take a life-time to get out of it.” In his remarks Hunt signaled that the efforts on behalf of Kalvin Michael smith are going to be both legal (there is a petition for a hearing in Federal court waiting for a decision now) and grassroots. Hunt pointed out that there is a racial and economic component driving the unwillingness of authorities to make positive decisions on the Smith case. Both Dr. little and Mr. Hunt pointed out that the only prosecutor in North Carolina ever brought to task for bringing false charges was Mike Niphong in Durham who was punished for bringing false charges against white, wealthy lacrosse players at Duke University. “You have to stay focused and gain knowledge about what is going on around you.” Hunt remarked.
Kalvin Michael Smith’s father was even more direct when pointing to a reason why the City Council chose not to become involved after their own committee found reason to seriously doubt the case against Smith. “Because of the almighty dollar.” Mr. Dark said referring to the assertions that the City Council had not made their decision based on the legal realities of the situation, rather they made them in an attempt to protect the City with legal liability if it is proven in court that Michael was wrongly imprisoned. “They don’t want to have to pay.” Mr. Dark said referring to the $1.6 million dollar award in the Hunt case, “They don’t want to pay, but they are ultimately going to have to pay.”
You can read more about the Kalvin Michael Smith case HERE.