Council member Adams explains why she didn't support amicus brief in Kalvin Michael Smith case

When the public safety committee of the Winston-Salem City Council met in July, it appeared that a majority of members were on board with a request by the Silk Plant Forest Truth Committee to file an amicus brief requesting a new trial for Kalvin Michael Smith.

Derwin Montgomery and James Taylor Jr., who respectively represent the city’s East and Southeast wards, said they supported they supported the idea of the city filing an amicus, or “friend of the court” brief.

Denise D. Adams, their colleague from the North Ward made a statement that, at least on its face, appeared to align with Montgomery and Taylor’s position.

“There comes a time when we must do what is just and right,” she said. “We have to use our political will to always right injustice.”  

Others who made statements suggesting an inclination to intervene on Smith’s behalf included Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burke and South Ward Councilwoman Molly Leight. Montgomery and Taylor stood firm, but the majority eroded. The council ultimately decided in closed session against filing an amicus brief and issued a statement from City Attorney Angela Carmon articulating that “the city council’s opinion on the merits of Kalvin Michael Smith’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus would not be legally relevant to the federal court’s review of the petition.” 

Adams said in an interview today that she decided to follow the city attorney’s advice. 

“As a city we have done several things such as in the process of this whole ordeal one of them was adopting the resolution in ’07 in establishing the Silk Plant Forest Citizens Review Committee,” said Adams, who was elected to the council in 2009. “That was a milestone. We hired two detectives to open up the case. We used our investigative authority to compel Detective DR Williams to present testimony to the council.” 

Adams indicated that she believes her support for the decision by the majority of council in closed session is consistent with her previous statement advocating using “our political will to always right injustice” during an open meeting of the public safety committee. 

“I can quantify reports, and there were several things that we’ve done to assist the justice process,” she said. “It’s not like we locked down the door and said, ‘We are not going to do anything.’… We’re providing all these pertinent pieces of documentation. What does that say about us that we’re doing nothing and we don’t care? Mr. Christopher Swecker [a retired FBI consultant] said that we implemented investigative techniques that exceed the FBI.”

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