Letters to the Editor:
Council called to do justice in Marker case
To the Editor:
On Oct. 22, 2007, The Winston-Salem City Council established a comprehensive fact finding review committee for the police department’s investigation into the Jill Marker Silk Plant Forest Case to make appropriate recommendations.
After all the information we reviewed, there was no credible evidence that Kalvin Michael Smith was at the location of the Silk Plant Forest store on December 9, 1995 at or about the time that the crime for which he was charged was committed.
After reviewing the Silk Plant investigation at length, the committee concluded at critical stages in the investigation, the investigators failed to follow procedures which, if followed, would have enhanced the reliability and completeness of information that was provided to prosecutors and ultimately, to the court. For this reason, the committee does not have confidence in the investigation. In some instances, the investigators violated expressly stated departmental policy. In other instances they engaged in conduct that departmental policy simply did not address adequately.
The question before the Winston-Salem City Council is what are you going to do about the report from the committee that you established which indicated Kalvin Michael Smith was wrongly convicted because of withheld evidence, ineffective assistance of counsel and other violations of his rights under North Carolina law and the Constitution of the United States?
Please note that one of the most important functions of the government of the City of Winston-Salem is to protect public safety. If Kalvin Smith was not involved in the brutal beating of Jill Marker, then the person who did is still out there in the community and that indeed concerns all of us. Because there were questions concerning whether police procedures were properly followed, it was in the interest of the city and its citizens to seek resolution to these questions by establishing an independent fact finding citizens committee for the Jill Marker – Silk Plant Forest Case police investigation.
As a member of the committee, it is discouraging to hear the City Council say it did not want to “overstep its boundary” by supporting Kalvin Smith’s petition for a new trial. It seems to me that the City Council has an obligation to seek the truth and do justice. Even the jurors who convicted Smith said that they are still haunted by the responsibility of deciding a case that rested on such uncertain evidence.
It is indeed disturbing to hear the chairperson of the City Council Public Safety Committee say that the review committee report was not enough for the city to take an official stand on the issue. As the City Council, you may not be in the court’s business, but you are called to do justice and to do what is called morally right.
After more than 50 years as a minister in the United Methodist Church, let me say to all of the people in Winston-Salem, “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is the law of the prophets.”
Rev. Dr. James W. Ferree Sr.
Council did not fulfill its role
To the Editor:
I am alarmed as a citizen of Winston Salem that our City Council chose not to tell the federal court the truth it now possesses about the Silk Plant Forest investigation. The issue is not the council’s view about Kalvin Michael Smith’s guilt or innocence. It is how our any government handles factual information.
Today, this case tests the core values and beliefs that guide our government, and the trust we citizens place in that government. What future do we seek for ourselves and our children here in Winston Salem? A culture is a collection of shared stories like the air we breathe. These stories often go unnoticed and unscrutinized. Yet, their impact can be enormous.
For thousands of years it was unquestionably permissible to own slaves, particularly if they were of a different race or tribe. And women were subservient to men. But eventually facts, not myths, inform the culture if the society is to survive. That principle is the foundation of all popular government and all democracies. It dates to the due process clause of the Magna Carta and was incorporated into the U.S. Constitution. The reality that our City Council cares so little about facts and due process should shock every citizen.
It is always government’s role, the City Council in this case, to provide protection for all its citizens, especially when truth the government possesses can correct an injustice of that government’s own making.
Rev. Willard Bass