Unlocking The Truth Takes A Detour

Unlocking the Truth, MTV’s documentary series examining wrongful convictions has been a shot in the arm for Kalvin Michael Smith’s supporters. I myself am happy to count myself among them. For five weeks now Smith’s supporters have been staying up late on Wednesdays to watch Unlocking the Truth. For the part Unlocking The Truth has done an excellent job examining Kalvin Michael Smith’s case.

I’ve been a little hostile toward MTV for burying Unlocking the Truth so late at night and sandwiching the show between episodes of Catfish. I’ve stated in a previous post that the premise of Unlocking the Truth is a Hollywood fiction, manufactured for the cameras. Ryan Ferguson and Eva Nagao aren’t solving the cases that their show examines each week. Legal experts and wrongful conviction advocates have already done that for them.

Ryan and Eva are bringing more national attention to wrongful convictions. They’re showing innocent people, wrongfully convicted, behind bars and seemingly powerless to regain their freedom. They’re also fixing their cameras on family member of the convicted, showing the toll that a wrongful conviction has on entire families and extended social networks.

They’re showing how flawed police investigations can be, how sometimes police cut corners. That eyewitness testimony is often unreliable. Sometimes closing a case is more important to law enforcement than putting the right person behind bars.

Unlocking the Truth shows how human and flawed the legal system can be. I particularly appreciate how Unlocking the Truth tracks down witnesses, investigators and victims. They aren’t unlocking the truth, but they are doing an excellent job reviewing cases. Talking to people who police ignored or marginalized. They have identified leads that police have ignored, essentially they’re showing who the police got cases wrong.

Unlocking the Truth has conclusively demonstrated what Kalvin Michael Smith’s advocates have maintained for year; Kalvin Smith is innocent. First, Unlocking the Truth spoke to the witnesses that were at the Silk Plant Forest store the night that Jill Marker was assaulted and left for dead. Two witnesses identified Ken Lamoureux at the SPF shortly before the assault.

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They interviewed Jeana Schopher, Jill Marker’s former friend and boss who she called minutes before the assault occurred. Schopher told Ryan and Eva that Marker told her Lamoureux came into her store and propositioned her and that he left visibly angry when she refused his advances. Mrs. Schopher went on to describe Lamoureux’s history with Marker.

Unlocking the Truth interviewed Ellen Lamoureux, Ken Lamoureux’s ex-wife at length. Ellen Lamoureux recalled the brutal beatings that she had suffered at the had’s of her ex-husband. She described having to take her kids and flee out-of-state on the eve of the Silk Plant Forest attack. She described Ken Lamoureux as “suicidal and homicidal.”

Clearly, Ken Lamoureux committed the Silk Plant Forest attack. All the evidence points to him. The only evidence that points to Kalvin Michael Smith was manufactured by Detective Williams. But Unlocking the Truth has refused to proclaim Smith’s innocence. What are they waiting for? Season 2?

They’ve heard Kalvin Michael Smith’s attorney at the Duke Innocence Project James Coleman describe in detail that the detective on Smith’s case was an incompetent racist. who cut corners at every turn. The investigation into Marker’s assault was clearly botched.

Josh Tepfer, an expert in false confessions broke down Detective D.R. Williams’ interrogation of Eugene Littlejohn-the principle witness against Smith. Tepfer demonstrated that Williams was feeding key details to Littlejohn. All Littlejohn had to do was say yes and no and follow Detective Williams lead.

Last week Unlocking the Truth tracked down Eugene Littlejohn and asked him if he had any knowledge of the Silk Plant Forest attack? Eugene Littlejohn’s testimony at trial was essentially all the evidence that the state had against Kalvin Michael Smith. Littlejohn stated on camera that he didn’t know anything about Jill Marker’s assault. He didn’t even know where the store was where the crime occurred, when he was questioned by Detective Williams.

Littlejohn told Sheila Legrande, Kalvin Michael Smith’s mother that he had been pressured by Detective Williams for weeks to implicate Smith in the Silk Plant Forest attack. If he didn’t testify against Smith, Littlejohn believed he would be indicted.

Tracking Eugene Littlejohn down, having him publicly recant his story was an important development in Kalvin Michael Smith’s case. The only witness against Smith was lying under WSPD pressure-that should be grounds for vacating Smith conviction.

Just last month in Wilmington convicted murderer Johnny Small was released from prison while awaiting a new trial. A judge overturned Small’s conviction after the eyewitness who testified against Small at trial recanted his testimony. David Bollinger, a childhood friend of Johnny Small testified that a Wilmington Police Detective made up the story implicating Small in the murder of a Wilmington shopkeeper and fed it to him. He told the courts that he testified against Small because he felt pressured by the police.

That’s more-or-less exactly what happened to Kalvin Michael Smith. Detective Williams ignored Lamoureux, pinned the crime on Smith and pressured Littlejohn into testifying against Smith. If Eugene Littlejohn would take the next step and tell a court of law what he told Unlocking the Truth last week, there is a fighting chance that Kalvin Michael Smith would be granted a new trial or have the charges against him dropped.

Unlocking the Truth has aired abundant evidence of Kalvin Michael Smith innocence. The next step would be for them to examine the Forsyth County D.A. offices role in Smith’s conviction. Or they could look at judicial system that has denied appeal after appeal. Unlocking the Truth could introduce Darryl Hunt’s case to viewers. After all, you can’t really understand Kalvin Michael Smith’s case if you don’t know about the wrongful conviction of Darryl Hunt.

But instead Unlocking the Truth took a U-turn. They decided to go to the SBI and see if they thought the case against Kalvin Michael Smith was sound? The SBI? Why not talk to former deputy director of the FBI, Chris Swecker? Swecker cleaned up the SBI a few years ago. Swecker did an exhaustive, impartial review of Smith’s case and found it highly flawed.

Unlocking the Truth is going in circles. Exposing wrongful convictions is not a winding road. Unlocking the Truth is trying to stretch Kalvin Michael Smith’s case out. It’s another example that Netflix is so much better than cable.

Besides commercial considerations, I understand that Understanding the Truth wants to be objective. But the best way to be objective is to follow the facts. Let them lead you to a conclusion. Then when you reach a conclusion don’t be afraid to embrace it. Don’t be afraid to say that Kalvin Michael Smith is innocent! It’s like Ryan Ferguson and Eva Nagao have guessed practically every letter on Wheel of Fortune, but they are afraid to solve the puzzle.

 

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