In 1972, I was one of ten young civil right activists -- nine black men and one white woman -- who were framed and wrongfully convicted of a crime we didn't commit during protests of racial discrimination in the Wilmington, NC school system. We came to be known as the Wilmington Ten. The District Attorney, Jay Stroud, actively sought to exclude black people from the jury. In his trial notes, which have recently come to light, he marked black potential jurors, and wrote, "stay away from black men." In another note he writes, "probably KKK good." BUt he wasn't opposed to every black person sitting on the jury; he mentions that one potential juror is a "sensible, Uncle Tom type." Every one of the trial's main witnesses against us -- convicted felons -- later recanted their testimony. A newly released letter shows that one of them asked Stroud for special favors in return for testifying against us. My biggest aspiration at the time was to create an educational environment conducive to the needs of ALL students in Wilmington. For that "crime" the ten of us were plucked from our families and from our futures. Years I would have spent in law school working to fulfill my dream of becoming a lawyer and a politician were instead spent in prison, or fighting false charges against me. Years my friends would have spent raising their children and pursuing their own dreams were instead simply lost. Sometimes, when a dream is deferred for long enough, you don't get to start from the beginning. I may not ever become an attorney or a politician. But Governor Bev Perdue can help set the record straight once and for all, and in doing so free the surviving Wilmington Ten members from the air of suspicion and lifetime of discrimination that has followed us ever since we were falsely convicted. Please join me in asking Governor Perdue to look carefully at all the evidence, and close this ugly chapter in North Carolina's history by issuing pardons of innocence for the six surviving and 4 deceased members of The Wilmington Ten.The Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project
Pardon the Wilmington Ten
In 1972, ten young activists - nine black males and one white female - were falsely convicted of conspiracy and the firebombing of a white-owned grocery store in Wilmington, NC. during the height of racial tensions, which erupted there following protests of racial discrimination during the desegregation of the local school system.
As a result of these convictions, the Ten were collectively sentenced to 282 years in prison, and, individually, served between four and six years in prison. These convictions and sentencing sparked national protests and gained international attention and condemnation. In 1977, the three State’s witnesses, who testified against the Ten, recanted their testimonies in court. The CBS News’ program “60 Minutes” then exposed the State’s evidence as “fabricated” by prosecutors, and in 1980, the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions based upon that Court’s independent determinations that the Prosecutor and the Trial Judge allowed the introduction of perjured testimony and with-held critical evidence which defense attorneys were entitled to receive.
The frame-up was exposed, but the State of North Carolina has never declared the Ten innocent, nor have the fabricated charges been dismissed against them. Though freed and cleared, they’ve had to live out their lives under an unjust cloud.
The undersigned individuals hereby demand that North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue now, forty years later, officially grant pardons of actual innocence to each of, as of August 3, 2012, the six surviving members and four deceased members, of the Wilmington Ten.
Justice has been denied for too long.