Wilmington 10 Pardoned. Two articles:
1. North Carolina governor pardons Wilmington 10 by Jamil Smith
The Wilmington Ten are truly free, at last. Outgoing North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue issued and signed a "pardon of innocence" for
the group Monday. There are currently six surviving
members. The nine African-American men and one white
woman had been convicted in the 1972 firebombing of a
Wilmington, NC grocery store during civil-rights
protests that arose after police shot an
African-American teenager. Between the ten, they
received combined sentences totaling 282 years in prison.
2. NC governor signs pardons for Wilmington 10
By MARTHA WAGGONER December 31, 2012
Associated Press http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/50332695
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Outgoing North Carolina Gov.
Beverly Perdue issued pardons Monday to the Wilmington
10, a group wrongly convicted 40 years ago in a
notorious Civil Rights- era prosecution that led to
accusations that the state was holding political prisoners.
Perdue issued pardons of innocence Monday for the nine
black men and one white woman who were given prison
sentences totaling nearly 300 years for the 1971
firebombing of a Wilmington grocery store after police
shot a black teenager. The pardon means the state no
longer thinks the 10 - four of whom have since died -
committed a crime.
"I have decided to grant these pardons because the more
facts I have learned about the Wilmington Ten, the more
appalled I have become about the manner in which their
convictions were obtained," Perdue said in a news
The three key witnesses in the case later recanted
their testimony. Amnesty International and other groups
took up the issue, portraying the Wilmington 10 as
political prisoners. In 1978, then-Gov. Jim Hunt
commuted their sentences but withheld a pardon. Two
years later, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
Richmond, Va., threw out the convictions, saying
perjury and prosecutorial misconduct were factors in
the verdicts. "We are tremendously grateful to Gov.
Perdue for her courage," said Benjamin Chavis, the
former national NAACP executive director who was in
jail and prison for about five years before his
release. "This is a historic day for North Carolina and
the United States. People should be innocent until
proven guilty, not persecuted for standing up for equal
rights and justice."
In addition to Chavis, the surviving members of the
Wilmington 10 are Reginald Epps, James McKoy, Wayne
Moor, Marvin Patrick and Willie Earl Vereen. Those who
have died are Jerry Jacobs, Ann Shepard, Connie Tindall
and Joe Wright. Wright was the youngest, arrested when
he was 16 years old. The Wilmington 10 were convicted
in October 1972 on charges of conspiracy to firebomb
Mike's Grocery and conspiracy to assault emergency
personnel who responded to the fire in February 1971.
The trial was held in Burgaw in Pender County after a
judge declared a mistrial the first time. A jury of 10
blacks and two whites had been seated in the first
trial when prosecutor Jay Stroud said he was sick, and
the judge declared the mistrial. At the second trial, a
jury of 10 whites and two blacks was seated.
The three key witnesses who took the stand for the
prosecution recanted their testimony in 1976. And the
prosecutor, Stroud, became a flashpoint for the
Wilmington 10 supporters.
In November, NAACP state leaders said they believe
newly uncovered notes show Stroud tried to keep blacks
off the first jury and seat whites he thought were
sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan.
They showed the notes on a poster board, saying the
handwriting on the legal paper appeared to match notes
from other prosecution records in the case.
At the top of the list of 100 jurors, the notes said,
"stay away from black men." A capital "B'' was beside
the names of black jurors. The notes identify one
potential black juror as an "Uncle Tom type," and
beside the names of several white people, notations
include "KKK?" and "good!!"
Stroud told the StarNews of Wilmington that he wrote
the notes but declined to confirm that to the AP.
"This conduct is disgraceful," Perdue said of the
notes. "It is utterly incompatible with basic notions
of fairness and with every ideal that North Carolina
holds dear. The legitimacy of our criminal justice
system hinges on it operating in a fair and equitable
manner with justice being dispensed based on innocence
or guilt - not based on race or other forms of prejudice."
[Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker in Raleigh
contributed to this story.]
Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.