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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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A Final entry into her legacy

If Mike Easley, a trained Prosecutor, would not issue a pardon, how would Smiley, an untrained Governor know better?

Well, we should have seen this coming. She hosed up every other facet of government which she touched. Now she's hosed up the Judicial system in issuing this pardon.

What's her final day going to be like? Issue pardons for every one on death row or serving life terms?

She really needs to be in DC.

Let the payments begin

Its all about the money not clearing names...Its hard for those of us who were here during their time of riots and violence, to believe that would get rich off of what they did... Maybe some of the other thugs who are wreaking havoc downtown can get a nice payout one day...Only in America!

Miscarriage of Justice

So if I'm reading this correctly they were guilty but the process which convicted them was flawed. Sounds like charges need to be refiled and upon conviction they should spend what's left of their lives in prison.

Wilmington 10

Perdue should have ask people who lived thru this time and felt the terror these thugs pushed thru out city. Today we call them TERRORISTS. That is exactly what there were, burning the city,shooting weapons at anyone who got in their way. There was a curfew put across our community which brought on more FEAR for the citizens. Ask the Wilmington Police Ofcr who was facing a gun and would have seen his last day if the gun had not misfired or the Highway Patrolman who had a shotgun fired at him.My sister was on that jury and she CERTAINLY was not a member of the KKK.That is the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard. I wish to hell you gov could have lived here during that time with all the National Guardsmen on alert stationed at every corner, morning and night. Lives were interrupted by these TERRORIST who ran around this city causing fear, hate, and discontent to not only the white community but also to their own communities. God help you BP and may you never be forgotten for this shameful decision.

WILMINGTON TEN PARDON

I was a reporter at WWAY-TV in Wilmington the night the****hit the fan.
I had numerous telephone conversations with one of the Ten,and on one occasion was at the church during discussions about acts planned by the group. I think news director John M. was slow on the story. i don't know who fire bombed whom. I saw the Ten as radicals. That is not a felony or arson. It was a bad time. I'm glad it's history.

Domestic Terrorism

This is what all democrats voted for in November. They pardon domestic terrorist like the "Wilmington 10" and fail to protect our sovereignty like in Benghazi.

Good going democrats. Going to hell in a handbasket.

Koom-Bahhh-Freekin'-Yahhhhh....

Now we can all sleep better, right?
Thanks Bevvie! Just another accomplishment you will be remembered for...NOT!

Proof

If anyone still needed any proof that Perdue was a self-serving, IDIOT, they have plenty now. She has truely been a skidmark on this state and I am glad she will soon be gone.

Well I will NEVER vote for another Democrat again...

and I mean ever. That party ceases to exist to me now. If a slot on the ballot has nobody special as the Republican and a saint as the Democrat, that item goes unchecked. And I'm not alone. This is one of the worst things a governor of NC has ever done. Thank goodness this imbecile governor's time in office is almost a bad memory.

voter

Your Vote Won't matter because the rest of the country has passed you by.

So you think one election means you can now...

operate like a totalitarian system? I guess you forgot the election earlier this year when you lost the Wisconsin recall and of course, the Republicans gutted union power in Michigan of all places? You also got your clocks cleaned in the Amendment One vote here in NC and a similar vote occurred earlier in California of all places. While on the subject of NC, where my vote matters tremendously, this is a state where the Republicans have a super majority in the General Assembly and a Republican Governor. I guess you've also forgotten that a third of the federal government - the House of Representatives - comes out of districts where votes like mine matter and we are the majority in the House. Another thing the lefty simpletons don't seem to realize - the presidential election came down to 370,000 votes in swing states. You're by no means an overwhelming majority. Oh, I voted for Obama in 2008 so forget any delusions you have that people like me no longer matter. There are plenty of us who've frequently jumped around the ballot and don't vote based on a blind ideology.

This a disgrace to the past

This a disgrace to the past and present citizens of Wilmington. Shame on her, how stupid. Could anyone list anything these folks(the Wilmington 10) have done useful in their lives since their convictions??? So if you commit a crime, you can eventually get pardoned and paid? Good bye Bev Perdue!!!! Glad you are gone.

pardon

Now the Wilmington Ten Can be legal gun owners and be "Good Guys"