Hundreds of citizens from across the nation are now expressing their support for the pardons campaign for the Wilmington Ten; joining congresspeople, state lawmakers and civil rights leadership in calling for the names of ten falsely convicted activists to be cleared after forty years.
Meanwhile last week, after a presentation by attorney Irving Joyner, co-chair of the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project, the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus voted unanimously to request of Gov. Beverly Perdue that she grant individual pardons of ”actual innocence” to the Wilmington Ten, three of whom are deceased.
The NC NAACP, which facilitated that meeting, also spearheaded the effort to have the national NAACP Board of Directors to also unanimously pass a resolution of support.
”It was one of the proudest things I’ve ever done,” Rev. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP, told The Wilmington Journal.
In addition, thousands have visited the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project page on Facebook to see archival photos, watch the videos, read the posts and articles, and click over to the Change.Org petition page, which had amassed nearly three hundred signatures, after only just over a week, by press time Wednesday.
Of course there are the expected in-state signatures of support on the online petition from Durham, Raleigh, Charlotte, and yes, Wilmington. But there are an impressive number of support signatures from places like Fair Oaks, California, Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC, among many more.
And in many of those are comments of outrage that the state of North Carolina, has not seen fit in the past forty years to correct its wrongful convictions of the Wilmington Ten, sentencing them collectively to 282 years in prison on conspiracy charges associated with racial violence in Wilmington in Feb. 1971, and specifically the firebombing of a white-owned grocery store.
I lived in NC from 1965 to 1970, so I followed this case with great concern from its inception. I hadn’t realized that the ten hadn’t been ”completely” pardoned. Please pardon them now,” wrote Ted Cloak of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Rhonda Baird of Silver Spring, Maryland wrote, ”As Dr. King stated, ”Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
”It is past time to ring the bells of justice,” wrote Linda Jaramillo of Cleveland, Ohio on the Change.Org petition for the Wilmington Ten pardon petition. ”The General Synod of the United Church of Christ stands in solidarity with the Wilmington 10 and appeal to our brothers and sisters of the Church to do the same. We pray for a just and speedy decision by Governor Perdue.”
”Prosecutorial Miscon-duct,” declared Danita Parker of Rougemont, NC. ”The things which were done in the Wilmington 10 case contrasted with the Duke Lacrosse Case makes Nifong appear to be an angel. Let’s right the wrong in this situation. Yes NC has a very storied history, so does America. These fellows have lost any real opportunity to live a normal life. Give them peace at this late age. May the Peace of the Lord be with you always!
Scott Douglas of Birmingham, Alabama wrote, ”Unfinished human rights business of importance.”
From Wilmington, NC, Dr. Bettie Glenn wrote, ”People of courage stood their ground, sacrificed life and liberty to bring attention to the inequality in American Society. The Wilmington 10 took bold and historic action to hold America accountable. Democracy is not free; therefore, those wronged in the fight for human rights should be treated justly. Do that which is right, just, and moral!”
A former North Carolina resident, Frank Chadwick of Rantoul, Illinois, wrote directly to Gov. Perdue, saying, ”I call on you to make it clear where you stand on the terrible injustice done forty years ago, because on this matter you speak for North Carolina. You cannot undo that injustice, but your actions will tell the world that North Carolina today either abhors the criminal acts of its former prosecutors, or it shrugs and considers them unimportant. Please do not simply shrug.”
From Craftsbury, Vermont, Sonia Dunbar wrote, ”As an attorney, a member of the United Church of Christ and a ministerial student, I firmly believe that the correct judicial, moral, ethical, religious and policy-based action to take is to issue a pardon and thereby reaffirm the importance of the First Amendment in North Carolina.
And Latasha Perry of Wilmington, a grandchild of a late Wilmington Ten member Anne Shepard, wrote, ”You have no choice but to pardon the innocent. There is no legal justification for withholding a public pardon of the innocent as ruled by our own courts.”
”It is shameful enough that innocent citizens spent time in prison due to wrongful convictions based primarily on the admittedly fictitious testimony of the witnesses the conviction was founded on. Apparently our justice system is so jaded that it is implied that release of the Wilmington 10 should be compensation enough. It is not.”
Ms. Perry continued, ”?Lives were ruined. Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters divided from their families. Years of life lost behind bars. And even after release, many suffered the consequences of being deemed guilty, despite being presumed innocent according to our own laws. ?For us it is not about monetary compensation, it is about righting a wrong that is long overdue.”
”How can we preserve the rights we are due as citizens, preserve the justice system we are taught to rely on for the enforcement of those rights for ”The people,” unless we take the steps to make this right? ?Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat – innocent until proven guilty. ?Pardon the innocent,” Ms. Perry wrote.
The petition page is located at https://www.change.org/ petitions/nc-governor-bev-perdue-pardon-the-wilmington-10.
The Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project is located on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheWilmingtonTenPardonOfInnocenceProject
Editor’s Note- Cash Michaels is the coordinator for the Wilmington Ten Pardons of innocence Project, which is sponsored by the National Newspaper Publishers Association.