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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Outgoing North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue has issued pardons to the Wilmington 10, a group wrongly convicted in a notorious Civil Rights-era prosecution.

Perdue issued a pardon of innocence Monday for the nine black men and one white woman sentenced to a combined almost 300 years in prison for the 1971 firebombing of a Wilmington grocery store that occurred after police shot a black teenager. The pardon means the state no longer thinks the group committed a crime.

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.


Gov. Bev Perdue today signed a Pardon of Innocence for the Wilmington 10 and issued the following statement:

“I have spent a great deal of time over the past seven months reviewing the pardon of innocence requests of the persons collectively known as the Wilmington Ten. This topic evokes strong opinions from many North Carolinians as it hearkens back to a very difficult time in our state’s past, a period of racial tensions and violence that represents a dark chapter in North Carolina’s history. These cases generate a great deal of emotion from people who lived through these traumatic events.

In evaluating these petitions for clemency, it is important to separate fact from rumor and innuendo. 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.

In 1980, a federal appeals court overturned the convictions in a written decision that highlighted the gross improprieties that occurred during the trial. The federal court determined as a matter of law that numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct and other constitutional violations took place. Among other things, the court ruled that with regard to the testimony of the prosecution’s key witness – upon whose credibility the case depended entirely — “the conclusion is inescapable that [he] perjured himself” and that “this fact was bound to be known to the prosecutor . . .” The court also declared that it was undisputed that key documents had repeatedly been withheld from defense lawyers. It also found numerous errors by the trial judge that had the effect of unconstitutionally prejudicing the defendants’ ability to receive a fair trial.

Since the trial ended, the prosecution’s key witness and two supporting witnesses all independently recanted their testimony incriminating the defendants. Furthermore, last month, new evidence was made available to me in the form of handwritten notes from the prosecutor who picked the jury at trial. These notes show with disturbing clarity the dominant role that racism played in jury selection. The notes reveal that certain white jurors believed to be Ku Klux Klan members were described by the prosecutor as “good” and that at least one African American juror was noted to be an “Uncle Tom type.”

This conduct is disgraceful. 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. That did not happen here. Instead, these convictions were tainted by naked racism and represent an ugly stain on North Carolina’s criminal justice system that cannot be allowed to stand any longer.

Justice demands that this stain finally be removed. The process in which this case was tried was fundamentally flawed. Therefore, as Governor, I am issuing these pardons of innocence to right this longstanding wrong.”


On behalf of the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project – a justice outreach effort of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and the Wilmington Journal newspaper – we are all very proud of North Carolina today, and extraordinarily grateful to our Governor, Beverly Perdue, for having the tremendous courage and wisdom to grant all members of the Wilmington Ten, pardons of actual innocence.

Thank you Governor!

Gov. Perdue’s historic action today doesn’t remove the past forty years of injustice against ten innocent American citizens – North Carolinians who stood up for equal treatment under the law in our public education system. But it does correct the historical record, that Connie Tindall, Jerry Jacobs, William Joe Wright, Anne Sheppard, Wayne Moore, Marvin Patrick, James McKoy, Willie Earl Vereen, and the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, were indeed innocent of all charges falsely assessed to them by a corrupt prosecutor who, to this day, has not answered for what he did.

We sincerely hope that now, at long last, a certain peace can be restored to the shattered lives of the surviving members of the Wilmington Ten, and to the family members Jerry Jacobs, William Joe Wright, Anne Sheppard and Connie Tindall all of whom are deceased.

And we also hope, and pray, that the state of North Carolina, and the nation, have learned from this great tragedy of racial injustice. If America is to live up to the true meaning of its creed, that all men and women are created equal before the eyes of GOD, then we must fight, and fight hard for the integrity of our criminal justice system.

For if we don’t, then none of us are safe from those who would seek to destroy the fundamental liberties of citizens who work only to make this nation the land of promise and freedom that many before us sacrificed so much for future generations to enjoy.

On behalf of the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project and the NNPA, thank you to the NAACP, Change.org, and all who assisted us in this vital quest for justice.

Comment on this Story

  • tweety11

    Kids laugh atover wieght kids now,its not right but they do it.You are right about one thing,some things you never forget…..

  • SurfCityTom

    perhaps the solution is a “mock trial” with all evidence being reviewed; testimony taken; and closing arguments being made.

    While they would not be subject to jail, perhaps this would bring true closure.

    And if truly found guilty, they would lose their rights to reparations.

    One other point. In virtually every pardon request made, the Attorney General or staff is consulted for legal opinions. She’s not an attorney; why did she not have the AG review the data before issuing her decree?

  • FleetGhost

    The Harlem Globetrotters did indeed give a demonstration in the gym at Williston. They were doing some kind of activity where students were randomly picked from the audience to come onto the floor. Whenever a white student was picked they were booed. I can still see the face of an overweight white girl with red hair who was laughed at unmercifully. There was nothing anybody could do about it except try to ignore it because tensions were so high. Some things you never forget.

  • news_archive

    May 12, 1977 Wilmington Star News – Burgaw – “Allen R. Hall Wednesday angrily denounced the Wilmington 10 arson-conspiracy convictions as a frame-up and said he acted alone in burning down a white-owned grocery store during racial unrest in 1971.”

    Continued on Page 2A http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1454&dat=

  • Grand Ole Party

    And yet you were not there either. I take it you know nothing as well? Your father was as guilty as the rest of them. Karma will catch up sooner or later.

  • Guest 211


  • tweety11

    i was at williston and i don’t remember in laugh at any white kids be harassed or laughed at.Iremember Meadowlark at Brogden Hall and everyone enjoying them.Could be wrong just don’t remember them coming to Williston>beside i don’t believe Meadow Lark would have allowed that.

  • FleetGhost

    I witnessed it at Williston as the minority of white children were constantly harassed, laughed at and booed in the gym when Meadowlark Lemon, a native of Wilmington, came to town with the Harlem Globetrotters to try help smooth things over.

  • FleetGhost

    No one in the press ever speaks the names of the men who were killed at Williston. R.I.P. Donald Flowers. Do you know the other man’s name? I do not forget them, nameless as they have been to me all these years. I have prayed for their souls, for there but for the grace of God went I as they were found right outside my classroom door which was of significance to me. I always felt they took bullets meant for me as I was harassed terribly the entire year I was at Williston, for what reason? Because I was perceived as a privileged white woman? That’s as far as the thinking went, no appreciation for the fact that my gg grandfather trekked down from Ohio on Sherman’s March to the Sea during the Civil War to give slaves their freedom. Very, very tragic for these Pinkerton men who were just doing their job guarding a school. So very sorry for your loss. I know your family has suffered.

  • Son_

    GASTONIA, N.C. — http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/gastonia-lawyer-says-he-rammed-cars-because-satan-/nGsFS/
    “A Gaston County defense attorney is accused of repeatedly ramming a car on a busy road in Gastonia early Thursday.The man, who for almost 40 years has come to court and taken the attorney’s chair, is now in jail clothes speaking in his own defense. Jay Stroud says he’s battling mental illness.
    “I took my medication faithfully,” he said tearfully to the judge. “I am no danger to myself or anyone.”
    But Gastonia police reports indicate he was a danger on Hudson Boulevard when witnesses say just before 5 a.m. he repeatedly swerved to hit a car driving beside him.
    The other driver and a separate witness told police that when they came to a stop light, Stroud then rammed the truck in front of him several times.
    The lawyer argued to the judge that the other drivers were out to get him.
    “I was the victim. Satan was with them and the other officer,” Stroud said.

  • Vog46

    Crimes were committed so the case should be re-opened.
    If it can be proven who did it they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
    If it’s the very same folks? Fine by me, just give ’em a fairer trial. If it’s somebody different? That’s OK too.
    Just treat it like any other case – that’s all we ask

  • SurfCityTom

    you did not hear me raise a racial issue on this one. This occured in 1971, I believe; I was playing in the Southeast Asian League at the time.

    We did’nt worry about a person’s religion or racial background. We worried about getting the mission accomplished with the lowest casualty rate possible.

    But, I must say it appears there is far too much focus on the Wilmington 10 and some time forgotten issue from the 1890s.

    Now, let them focus on reducing crime in the public housing projects; improving school performance for those residents; and holding parents accountable for their children. Those would be worthwhile projects which could have a positive impact today.

    But that might take some from their age old comfort zones and require them to focus on the present in order to have a positive impact on the future.

  • Vog46

    Is racism rearing it’s ugly head?
    “They were black and rioting so of course they were guilty”?
    “It was a scary time and everyone was afraid of the blacks”?
    “The Prosecutor was white as was the jury so they had to be right”?

    “We shouldn’t be pardoning ANY blacks for race riot stuff”?

    Is THAT what this is all about?
    Yeah the questions may be uncomfortable – but is that what’s going on here?
    I served with a very diverse group of men. We all shared the same common denominator – we were all afraid of dying. Because of this we forgot about black, white, Jew, Catholic, Polish, Lithuanian, gay, straight – we were soldiers. WE had each other’s backs.
    At a very guttural level we came to the realization that we were all equal and that the only way to survive was as a team. This was the most powerful anti-discriminatory time in our collective lives – and I believe we became better men because of it.
    So when I see stuff like the Wilmington Ten Pardons? I breathe a sigh of relief in the hopes that these stories somehow ease the pain caused by past discrimination. When I see the pardons being questioned – I have to wonder if all the vestiges of discrimination are really gone?

    That’s why I agree with Perdue – if the evidence is “gone” or was wrong to begin with these folks should have NEVER been convicted in the first place.
    I’m too damned old to worry about being wrong about stuff like this – from what I’ve read Bev deserves a pat on the back.
    So be it.


  • Vog46

    I have no idea.
    But it doesn’t matter does it?
    In many criminal cases there is physical evidence to go along with eyewitness or video evidence.
    From what I’ve read – in this case there was no physical evidence ONLY eyewitness accounts, and those accounts changed VOLUNTARILY, and INDEPENDENTLY of each other.
    As to why Sleasely didn’t do it? Don’t have a clue on that either Tom. Maybe he suffered from “Low T”? “No-T”?
    Perdue DID say she had new evidence that clearly shows racism played a key role on the prosecutors side – perhaps Eaesley didn’t have that info? So that for him the overturning of the conviction was enough?
    This case was not handled well from the start – the Fed Court saw parts of that and overturned the convictions.
    Bev got even more info and issued the pardon of clemency.
    She did RIGHT Tom – give credit where it’s due because it appears as though she’s due the credit for this one.


  • SurfCityTom

    having read your comments, I have to ask. When did the 3 eyewitnesses recant? Why did a Governor, with the legal and DA background, like Easley not issue a pardon far earlier?

    If as you state, the eyewitnesses recanted, and there were no other eyewitnesses or forsenic evidence, why did Easley not take action during his 8 years in office?

  • jj

    I guess it is time to reopen the cases to see who did the killing and who burned down the buildings.

    However, the DA and WPD will not even think of this. I think the NAACP should push this if they want justice.

  • Guest2012

    …for the sake of their own health and safety. And, most likely because their family regained their “common sense” before they lost their own life.
    “Just say you lied, and we won’t have a molitove cocktail thrown thru our livingroom window again this evening during Walter Croncite”

    Get real, Sympathizer!

    They were scared out of their wits for their lives, most likely. When these riots were going on here in Wilmington, they were going on elsewhere in America. Hey Pittsburghers, Chime in! Remember Oliver and Allegheny High School? Schenley, Allderdise, Langley…. I could name every public high school in the burg.

    I lived through them and I was so freaking scared of the riots in my high school that I DROPPED OUT of High School in 1972 when I was 16 years old. I was a strait A female student who had my high school years destroyed because there was bloodshed at our high schools because of rioting in the streets of major cities that began in 1968.

    Gov. idiot must’ve dropped out in fifth grade to be this damn stupid. THANK Goodness for Pat Mc Crory and the Republicans in the North Carolina House and Senate. Maybe now there can be a recall on this stupider than stupid Pardon. Ohhhhhh!

  • Jasmine mckoy

    I’m the daughter of one of the 10. Let me tell you simple minded clowns something right
    Now my father suffered for years with this stigma of being a felon. Unless you were all
    There, them you know nonthing. My father is not a violent person. Neither are the rest
    Of them.do you honestly think they would have went through all of this if they knew
    They were guilty? If it was you or a family member of yours you would have wanted the same thing for them.leave them alone.simple clowns is what you are no sense of history.no common sense at all for that matter!

  • Guest CommonTater

    could just possibly stay the hell out of the country. What a worthless POS!

  • GRR

    FleetGhost, I agree with you full heartily about this situation. People like Ben Chavis came here and did exactly what he wanted to do. They are walking tall right now, but will pay when they get to the Pearly Gates. This subject has been a thorn in my side for the forty years, because one of the Pinkerton guards that was killed at Williston was my cousin Donald Flowers. There never has been any justice for our family because the guilty culprit was never captured.

  • Chris E

    It all goes back to what happened in Wilmington, NC in 1898 with the Wilmington Massacre (the mass killing and exile of African-Americans in the city of Wilmington and also ushering in Jim Crow Segregation throughout North Carolina). Go to http://www.facebook.com/wilmingtononfire to check out the upcoming documentary WILMINGTON ON FIRE to find out more! Plus, check out the teaser trailer at: http://youtu.be/9toV2-zDWkA

  • jj

    They have been waiting for years for a Democrate Governor who was pissed off with the State and they found one. They are guilty as sin and everyone knows it. I hope they reopen the case and charge them again.

  • MARK L

    The pardon of the so-called Wilmington 10 comes as no surprise to me. You can’t do much in return to somebody that has nothing to lose. I too lived through this era in Wilmington, and i clearly remember the tension always increasing in High School and in our town whenever Ben Chavis was due to arrive. Like many others who have already commented I too know that someone committed these crimes, and i would like to see the case re-opened before our history is changed forever.
    One of the memories i will carry with me all of my life is that of those black children who were taken out of the familiar surroundings and schools and forced by their parents and others to move to what was then all white schools. Some of these kids were beaten on their way to school and on their way home. Many of them were harassed during class. But, they persevered. Many of these people are doctors, lawyers and very highly regarded citizens all over the world. Why do the people who commit crimes always get the NAACP’S attention, and not those who have worked hard and have endured many hardships?
    It is my understanding that the author Tim Tyson is going to write a book about the so-called Wilmington 10. He seems to be a very intelligent and honest man. I only wish he would write a book about those blacks that have done wonderful things with their lives, and not the criminals and terrorists such as Ben Chavis.

  • Guest2020

    It is fitting that the worst governor in North Carolina’s history would make such a decision. I am glad that this idiot is no longer involved in making decisions for our state. I hope that she never gets another good night’s rest after denying justice to the Wilminton 10’s victims.

  • David Garrison

    Did anyone ask Mike, or the Police that were shot during the riot what they thought about the Pardon? Thought not!

  • Guest2020

    The judge that overturned the case decided that the prosecution’s main witness had been incompetent as a witness. This was without having met the man or had a proper evaluation of any kind. The other ruling in the appeal stated that the prosecution didn’t turn over all evidence in discovery. The document he withheld contained notes he made as he interviewed the witness. The prosecutor is not required to turn over anything that contains his written notes in the case. The judge was completely out of line in his rulings. Not to mention, that it was a federal judge who had no jurisdiction to even hear a state case. They were let out on a technicality by someone who had no proper authority to hear the case. That does not in any way mean that they are innocent of the crimes.

  • Vog46

    “Nowhere in her statement does she note evidence was presented which proved the 10 innocent of the deed”

    They are innocent until proven guilty.
    Now that the stories are recanted they regain that fallback position – innocent until proven guilty.
    If the eyewitnesses were the “proof” and that proof is no longer there they are innocent.

    Without the eyewitnesses what proof do they have they are guilty?


  • Guest56894

    And GuestReality….you nailed it right on the head…….I would be willing to bet the farm that ALL of them have retained lawyers for “compensation” lawsuits….this is FAR from over…..each one of them will FOREVER have their NAME associated with the horrible crimes that happened during that time period. The VICTIMS will NEVER be “compensated”. Carry your “Pardon Letter” with you everywhere you go…. because you will FOREVER be THE WILMINGTON TEN….CRIMINALS!!!!!

  • Guest7123

    A fitting gesture from such a horrible representative of our state, now becomes Bev Perdue’s pathetic legacy.

  • FleetGhost

    This was avengement for the Riots of 1898 in Wilmington, the more recent murder of Henry Marrow in Oxford, NC, and disgruntlement over school desegregation in Wilmington which turned Williston Highschool into a junior high. The Civil Rights Movement brought on more militance as the Burn Baby Burn mindset swept across the country, paralleling anti-Vietnam war protests, a general anarchy that permeated many cities, a terrible time in this country. Somebod(ies) thought setting fires across the city of Wilmington would achieve their goal of punishing the city for perceived injustices; the New Hanover County Schools Administration building, Mike’s Grocery and more, terrorizing Wilmington citizens for 9 months and longer, leaving one man shot dead in broad daylight, two unarmed Pinkerton men shot dead in the halls of Williston School which was the epicenter of youths rioting throughout the 1970-71 school year as well as in other schools who were led by out of towners who came with the purpose of exacting revenge and yes, achieving notice for themselves. Notice they got, but the wrong kind they say. People may claim innocence in life and people may believe it because they think it couldn’t have happened the way it did, but happen it did. Some of us who were there know just how bad that war was. We suffered but there is no justice for us or the dead. Those somebod(ies), nobody has ever said who, took revenge into their own hands, but “Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord”. Those somebod(ies) will answer to the Lord God Almighty in the hereafter. They know who they are.

  • GuestReality

    What are you….12?

  • GuestReality

    Who’s to say they won’t recant again somewhere down the road? Who’s to say if they recanted because of fear for their lives? There’s a lot more to this than meets the eye.

  • GuestReality

    Now get ready for the next step….lawsuits. Isn’t that really what all this is about? Money? Get ready to dig deep into your pockets taxpayers, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Isn’t it heartwarming to know these clowns can now legally carry weapons again?

  • Vog46

    What is wrong with us? They were convicted and it got overturned, The overturning court ruled that not only did the DA not have any witnesses they had no case.
    THEN the higher court ruled there was all sorts of nefarious things going on in the court room.
    If this was a predominantly white group and the conviction got overturned many here would be saying “I told you so” and “the black jury was out to get the white folks”. The black folks would be saying “the white guys got it over turned because they’re white”.

    From a strictly legal standpoint what has transpired is EXACTLY what should have happened. A higher court overturned the convictions and the Governor pardoned the now “non” criminals.
    Now the state AG’s should go after the prosecutor and anyone else involved in developing this case if there’s a suspicion of falsifying information.
    This is how the judiciary is supposed to work.
    I dislike Bev as much as anyone else – but she is right in this case.


  • Rumblefish

    I wonder if I could get a pardon from her for all my crimes?

  • Vog46

    It was 9 blacks and 1 white person.
    So if 9 whites and 1 back burned down building would it be a hate crime?


  • Guest22

    Once again, Bev proves she doesn’t have walking around sense.

  • PublicAvenger

    Let me see…. Ten Black People burn a white person’s building down. If that was the other way around, it would be a “Hate Crime”.

  • GuestReality

    Yes….but it wasn’t…..

  • bob

    i think they were there and did exactly what they were accused of.
    they got a pardon from a weak governor thats ok, their lives were ruined anyway ! pardon means nothing !

  • Vog46

    From what I have read the prosecutors case was based upon eyewitness accounts.
    All 3 eyewitnesses recanted – meaning the case crumbled.
    The federal court acted on things that went way beyond the recanting eyewitnesses. The jury was stacked, and the prosecution witheld documents from the defense.
    As scary as those times were, it is no excuse for legal misconduct (on ether side). Once the prosecutions case crumbled (even after a finding of guilty) it is the responsibility of the DA to reopen the case.
    Any one of those items is worthy of overturning the guilty plea as the federal judge did.
    As much as I dislike Purdue she acted like any other Governor would have.


  • GuestTBagger

    It’s only too bad that the prosecutor in this debacle of a case will escape justice.

  • marisa

    “prosecution’s key witness and two supporting witnesses all independently recanted their testimony incriminating the defendants.” THEY LIED.

  • Guest 13131

    BET ON IT ! ! !

  • RCribb

    Betcha Ole Bev got more out of that deal than her salary. How/why would she wait til her last few days in office to do this? I just can’t understand why she was elected any how, what a waste……

  • connie casteen

    I think it is a terrible thing. I lived thru those days and it was the worst and scary thing I have been thru. These people BROKE the LAW. They were tried and convicted. They should have been punished.
    You should have been there to see the fires and the rock throwing and how the rescue people could not approach hurt persons until the police cleared the area.
    I totally disagree they be cleared of anything.
    They are guilty. Now how many other guilty prisoners will now get off because of this. We will not even be allowed to leave our houses because of the Government continuing to think we OWE people. When will all this stop. I has to stop.

  • SurfCityTom

    she and the First Gentleman departed for a 7 day, out of country, vacation to avoid critical comments and enjoy world class travel on the State Taxpayers’ dime.

    What a miscarriage of justice.

    Nowhere in her statement does she note evidence was presented which proved the 10 innocent of the deed. She notes legal technicalities as the basis for issuing the pardon.

    Can January 5 get here any sooner?

  • redd

    This is wonderful news. I am not suprised that you demonic people are upset. You could care less about the stigma that this has placed on those that were falsley accused. God is good. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA LOL LOL LOL LOL

  • ButchXassidy

    the conclusion is inescapable that [he] perjured himself” and that “this fact was bound to be known to the prosecutor . . .” The court also declared that it was undisputed that key documents had repeatedly been withheld from defense lawyers. It also found numerous errors by the trial judge that had the effect of unconstitutionally prejudicing the defendants’ ability to receive a fair trial.

    Sounds like prosecutorial misconduct to me.

  • jj

    Remember this the next time she is running for office and I know she will be. This guys are as guilty as sin. However, if you ask their mom she would tell you how sweet these you men were.

    They should have never been let out of prison and should have been retried after the court ruling. They were never found not guilty….

  • Davida C

    Finally some semblance of justice in this case! I am so thankful to Governor Perdue for doing what is right. I was involved with the defense of the Wilmington Ten in a minor way all those years ago, and was convinced then of their innocence. It is NOT the case that they were guilty and are now pardoned. It IS the case that they were NOT GUILTY and finally North Carolina has acknowledged that. Their lives can never be restored but at least this offers some measure of relief to their suffering. It is especially appropriate that this action occurs as we are about to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

  • Guestarticulatore

    Many thanks Governor! Although delayed, these pardons genuinely serve justice.

  • B M

    Beverly Perdue is a disgrace to the human race!!!! technicallity or not, the Wilmington 10 were guilty as sin and she knows it, to grant a pardon just proves how low one’s party can stoop1 Black or white, when you excuse these type of behaviors you tell the rest of the thugs it’s ok to prey upon the public, Bev, sure hope to see your history right there with Hunt and Easley.

  • Guest2020

    A new investigation and trial in this case would be a waste of the taxpayers money. The guilty ones were let go.

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