Civil Rights Activists Cleared of Crime After 40 Years
N.C. governor pardons "Wilmington 10" in 1970s firebombing, citing racist prosecution
Forty years after they were wrongfully prosecuted and convicted of firebombing a white-owned grocery store and shooting at emergency workers, a group of civil-rights activists who became known as the Wilmington 10 have been pardoned by North Carolina's governor.
With just five days left in her term, Gov. Bev Perdue on Monday cleared the names of the 10 activists, saying the actions of prosecutors in the case were based on race and “disgraceful.”
She added that she granted the request “because the more facts [she] learned about the Wilmington 10, the more appalled [she became] about the manner in which their convictions were obtained.”
The 10 people, among them noted civil rights activist Ben Chavis, had their sentences reduced to the eight years they had served and were freed in 1980 after the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions. However, the charges still lingered. With the help of the NAACP, Chavis in 2012 appealed to Perdue for a full pardon. While researching the case, the governor read the notes of Jay Stroud, the prosecutor in the case. The notes showed the prosecutor’s efforts to select a favorable jury based on race.
Only six of the Wilmington 10 are still alive today. (Charlotte Observer)