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Kalvin Michael Smith, convict released from prison 20 years after controversial sentence, found dead in Winston-Salem

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Kalvin Michael Smith, a man who spent 20 years behind bars in connection with a violent crime he claimed he did not commit, has been found dead, according to Winston-Salem police.

At about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, police responded for a death investigation on the 100 block of Charleston Court. Winston-Salem Police Chief Ivey Brown held a press conference on Friday in which he identified the victim as Kalvin Michael Smith, 52, of Winston-Salem.

Police say there is no evidence of foul play or suspicious activity. No word on the cause of death.

Kalvin Michael Smith after his release from prison in November 2016. (WGHP file photo)

Smith was convicted in 1997 of robbery and assaulting Jill Marker at the Silk Plant Forest store in 1995. The assault left Marker with severe brain injuries. Smith maintained his innocence throughout his sentence.

College students from Wake Forest University, Salem College and Winston-Salem State University protested, calling for Smith’s release in 2016. They believed that Smith’s conviction spoke to the prejudice and bias in the criminal justice system.

“We’re holding the rally to prove his innocence for one but also to prove we have people out in the community that support him,” then-student Jaylon Hervin said at the time. “We wanted it to show moral support and that it’s one issue that we are ready to go to war for.”

A grassroots group known as the Silk Plant Forest Truth Committee pushed for a new trial or challenges to the ruling for 10 years. Much of their pressure focused on the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office, then led by Roy Cooper prior to his ascent to governor.

The case was one of three cases explored in the MTV documentary “Unlocking the Truth,” which came out in August 2016.

Smith had found his path to freedom in November 2016, when a judge ruled that Smith’s attorney failed to present evidence that would have led to a shorter prison sentence at the time of his conviction. He was released on Nov. 10, 2016, after serving 20 years of his 29-year sentence.

On March 31, 2017, he was injured when three bullets pierced the side of his house on the 900 block of North Jackson Avenue. He was found on the sidewalk suffering from a gunshot wound and was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

Kalvin Michael Smith

In August 2017, he was accused of another assault on Weatherwood Court. Police were called to the scene of the 100 block of Weatherwood Court shortly before 12:30 a.m. on Aug. 27. Smith is accused of punching a woman after she stepped in to stop a fight between Smith and his girlfriend, police said in a press release. Smith turned himself in after warrants for his arrest were issued.

Source: Fox 8 News Channel

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