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Gov. Perdue issues Pardon of Innocence for Wilmington 10

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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.

NEWS RELEASE FROM THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE:

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.”

NEWS RELEASE FROM THE WILMINGTON TEN PARDONS OF INNOCENCE PROJECT:

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.

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PA

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

Vog

Yes

Yes....but it wasn't.....

Are they guilty?

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.

Vog

VOG

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?

Tom do I have to say this?

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"?

AND NOW IT'S:
"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.

Vog

DOESN'T MATTER IF THEY WERE

DOESN'T MATTER IF THEY WERE BLACK OR WHITE. IF THEY WERE ROITING, WOULDN'T THEY BE GUILTY? AS FAR AS A PAT ON THE BACK,? YOU GO FOR IT. EVEN IF THEY WERE WHITE, THEY SHOULDN"T BE PARDONED.

VOG

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.

SCT

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.

Vog

Beverly Perdue is a disgrace

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.

LITIGATION TO FOLLOW

BET ON IT ! ! !

Ole Bev

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......

I think it is a terrible

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.

"prosecution’s key witness

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

Yeah, They RECANTED~

...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!

Really?

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.

and immediately after her announcement

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?

Wonder if she..

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

SCT

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

Tom-
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?

Vog

VOG

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?

This is wonderful news. I am

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

What?

What are you....12?

It's only too bad that the

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

the conclusion is

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.

Remember this

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....

Wilmington Ten Pardons

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.

Many thanks Governor!

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

Glad to be getting a Govenor with a backbone!!!

I've seen Beverly Purdue make some boneheaded moves over the past few years but this by far takes the cake. They were proven guilty of what they were charged with. I'm pretty sure that if you looked at other high profile cases you would find notes revealing that certain notes from both the state and the defense that could be seen as racial. The state was trying to win a case (which they did). I'm sure it sounds like I have an ax to grind, and I guess I do in a way because my cousins murder has still been unsolved. He was a Pinkerton Security guard at one of the Wilmington schools and was tied up beaten and savagely murdered by some of these same scumbags that just got pardoned today. No justice for this family. Good riddance Beverly Purdue!!

SHAMEFUL AND DISGUSTING

This is horrible. Way to go Purdue, just another kick in the gut to NC. Let the 10 enjoy their day, they're going to burn in hell - no "technicalities" there. Just another sickening liberal democrat appeasing the ignorant voters. She, and they, make me sick.

This is what Democrats do

This is what Democrats do and why I will never vote for another Democrat.I'm sick of all the sucking up that Democrats do best.

I,M A DEMOCRAT AND I

I,M A DEMOCRAT AND I CERTAINLY DON'T AGREE WITH PERDUE. REPUBLICANS SUCK UP, SAME AS DEMS. HOW CAN ONE PERSON THAT PROBABLY WASN'T EVEN BORN, DIDN'T LIVE HERE, AND HARDLY EVEN KNOWS WHAT TO DO IN OFFICE BE ABLE, WITH CLEAR CONSCIENCE, TO PARDON TEN PEOPLE, REGARDLESS OF RACE, THAT CAUSED THE DESTRUCTION, TERROISM, ANGUISH AND FEAR THAT THESE TEN PEOPLE CAUSED? MAYBE WHEN THESE TEN GET THEIR COMPENSATION, MIKE"S AND WHOEVER, CAN SUE THEM FOR COMPENSATION FOR THE TROUBLE THEY CAUSED. ITS GOOD SHE LEFT THE COUNTRY. MAYBE SHE SHOULD STAY THERE. ITS CERTAINLY A GOOD THING THAT SHES LEAVING OFFICE. JUSTICE? HA.