Innocence and Justice Clinic sponsors roundtable on Silk Plant Forest Case on Wednesday, Feb. 19

The Innocence and Justice Clinic is sponsoring a roundtable discussion on the Silk Plant Forest beating case at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, in the Worrell Professional Center, Room 1109 . Members of the Wake Forest Law community are encouraged to attend.

The defendant in the case, Kalvin Michael Smith, was convicted in the 1995 beating of a manager at the former Silk Plant Forest store in Winston-Salem, N.C. Innocence and Justice Clinic Director Mark Rabil says Smith was convicted on questionable evidence, much of which has been recanted by witnesses.  Darryl Hunt, who works with Rabil in the Clinic, met Smith in prison and became convinced of his innocence.

A committee of citizens was appointed by the Winston-Salem City Council to investigate. The committee, which included Wake Forest Law Professor Miles Foy, concluded that there is no credible evidence to support that Smith was present at the crime scene.  Chris Swecker (’81), a former FBI assistant director, reviewed the case and found many problems with the investigation.  The Duke Innocence Clinic has been working on the case for many years, and is currently petitioning the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals for a rehearing.

The roundtable participants will include Hunt and Professor Foy; Duke Law Professor Jim Coleman; Guy Blynn, the chairman of the Silk Plant Forest Committee; Phoebe Zerwick and Les Gura, journalists who have written extensively about the case; and retired Winston-Salem Police Department  Det. Chuck Byrom, who re-investigated the case for several years; among others.

The Innocence and Justice Clinic provides students with the unique opportunity to learn about the various causes of wrongful convictions – mistaken eyewitness identification, invalid or improper forensic science evidence, jailhouse informants, false confessions, ineffective assistance of counsel, police and prosecutorial misconduct – while giving them the opportunity to apply this knowledge to the investigation of cases where newly discovered evidence can prove a client’s innocence. The Clinic works in close cooperation with The Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice and The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.