News 06.06.17

North Carolina Man Still Fighting for Justice after 20 Years

By Innocence Staff

Kalvin Michael Smith spent 20 years in prison for a 1995 assault and armed robbery he maintains he did not commit.

He was released in November when a judge commuted his sentence because his trial attorney neglected to present evidence that could have resulted in less time.

But Smith is still fighting for justice, with the conviction still on his record and a brutal crime still associated with his name. His legal team at the Duke Wrongful Conviction Clinic plan to meet with the attorney general and present the facts of the case in the hopes of putting forth a joint motion to vacate Smith’s conviction.

“Our view is that the attorney general has an obligation when there has been a miscarriage of justice to take action to remedy it,” the clinic’s co-director James Coleman told the Winston-Salem Journal.

Smith told the Journal that some people in Winston-Salem think he was already exonerated of the crime and compensated for the time he spend behind bars.

“It’s been kind of rough,” Smith told the Journal. “People think I have money, but I don’t have anything.”

In March, Smith was shot in the back while walking down the street near where he grew up. Fortunately he recovered quickly but the incident only added to the myriad challenges of adjusting to life on the outside.

Smith managed to find a job despite his felony conviction but until his name is cleared, he is severely limited.

“When I can walk down the street and people have no doubt I’m innocent, I’m free,” he told the Journal. “Until then, I’m not free.”

Read the Winston-Salem Journal Coverage here.

Related: North Carolina Man Released After 20 Years in Prison

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  1. Vacating Smith’s conviction and clearing his name is not supposed to be an issue for negotiation. Under normal circumstances, this should have been done with dispatch and without further delay. But the criminal justice system in America is far from normal and often does not operate within the norms of conventional wisdom. At the very least, Smith deserves a life of freedom – freedom to walk and move around in the earth’s vast landscape, freedom to earn a living, and freedom of association. These are his inalienable rights, but which had already been denied him for twenty years. When is enough ever enough?

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