Governor Bev Perdue has signed a pardon of innocence for the Wilmington 10. That’s a group of civil rights activists who were falsely convicted more than 40 years ago in the fire-bombing of a grocery store in Wilmington. The case got world-wide attention.
Perdue said she decided to pardon them because the more she learned about the case, the more appalled she became about how their convictions were obtained. Key witnesses for the prosecution began recanting their testimony after the trial. A federal court in 1980 overturned the convictions, citing misconduct on the part of prosecutors. The nine men and one woman had already spent several years in prison. This pardon officially clears them of the crime. President of the NC NAACP William Barber says this helps undo an ugly racial past.
“This is a victory for not only the civil rights and human rights community, but the state, the nation and the world...to say we can as a people can repent. We’re not too big to own our own. That’s the only way you can have true reconciliation,” says Barber.
The NAACP and other groups pushed Perdue for the pardon. This year notes surfaced which appear to be from former prosecutor Jay Stroud who oversaw the case. Barber says they point to even more injustice by showing prosecutors used racial profiling and searched for racist white jurors.
Only six of the ten pardoned are still alive.