NAACP renews call for Perdue to pardon 'Wilmington 10'
RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The North Carolina NAACP once again called on Governor Beverly Perdue to issue pardons for the "Wilmington Ten" before she leaves office January 5 on Tuesday.
The group cited what it called new evidence of "racial hostility towards prospective black jurors" in the highly controversial case from the 1970s.
The "Wilmington Ten" got their name following the February 1971 firebombing of Mike's Grocery in Wilmington. Following the bombing, a sniper took shots at firemen who were trying putting out the blaze.
Ten young civil rights activists - 21-year-old Connie Tindall, 19-year-old Willie Earl Vereen, 19-year-old Marvin Patrick, 34-year-old Anne Shepard Turner, 18-year-old William "Joe" Wright, 18-year-old Wayne Moore, 17-year-old Reginald Epps, 19-year-old Jerry Jacobs, 18-year-old James McKoy and 24-year-old Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis - were convicted and sentenced to a total of 282 years in prison in 1972.
They all served several years of incarceration before the case against them fell apart thanks to a 1977 CBS' "60 Minutes" exposé. Eventually, in 1980, the U.S. Fourth Circuit of Appeals overturned their convictions.
The federal appeals court determined that their constitutional rights had been violated, and that there was evidence that the "Wilmington Ten" were, in fact, innocent of all charges.
The 10 activists were later freed, but their names have never been officially cleared in North Carolina. Tindall, Turner, Wright and Jacobs have since passed away.
At a news conference at the State Capitol in Raleigh Tuesday, the NAACP pointed to what it said is new evidence of prosecutorial misconduct at the original trial by Assistant New Hanover County District Attorney James "Jay" Stroud Jr.
The NAACP said Stroud conspired to postpone the trial when he didn't get a jury with the racial makeup he was looking for. The group says Stroud's own trial notes show he tried to pick mostly white jurors, or sympathetic blacks.
"We rarely get such direct evidence of prosecutorial racism in jury selection," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President of the North Carolina NAACP, in a statement.
Former prosecutor Stroud has not commented on the allegations. Now 69, he lives in Gastonia according to published reports. He lost his license to practice law in 2008.
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