By Cash Michaels
Special to the NNPA from the Wilmington Journal
[WILMINGTON, NC] Now that the 2012 presidential elections are history, supporters for the Wilmington Ten pardons of innocence effort are increasing their efforts to build more overwhelming public support for the cause before NC Gov. Beverly Perdue leaves office on Dec. 31st.
Sources say there is opposition to the proposed pardons, primarily from former law enforcement and state officials who still believe – despite no evidence proving that the Wilmington Ten had anything to do with the 1971 firebombing of a white-owned grocery store, or sniper shots at responding firemen – that they are guilty.
The legal petition to pardon all of the ten – nine African-American males and one white female – of false conspiracy charges they were convicted of in 1972, has been pending in Gov. Perdue’s Executive Clemency office since last May.
Perdue, a Democrat, is expected to make her decision in December before she steps down.
Churches, fraternities, sororities, community and civic organizations in North Carolina and beyond are being asked to support the cause by sending letters to Gov. Perdue, or signing the online petition.
Benjamin Todd Jealous, NAACP president/CEO, has agreed to send out a mass email nationwide to all NAACP members asking them to sign a special online petition that will be delivered to the NC governor the first week in December. The national NAACP Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution last May supporting the Wilmington Ten pardon effort, and the NC NAACP will be calling a special press conference Nov. 27th in Raleigh to urge Gov. Perdue to grant the pardons.
Thousands of signatures in hard copy and online petitions have been collected, but organizers with the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project – an outreach effort the National Newspaper Publishers Association adopted in 2011 – say that still many more are needed by December 1st.
The next two weeks are critical, they say, towards garnering more petition signatures and letters of support in order to document widespread sentiment across the state and nation that the false prosecution of the Ten forty years ago was wrong, and the state needs to correct it.
Add to that the most recent and explosive revelation that James “Jay” Stroud, the state prosecutor who had the Wilmington Ten falsely convicted and sentenced to 282 years in prison collectively, not only sought to gerrymander the jury of the first June 1972 trial to include “KKK” and “Uncle Tom” types, but also, documented evidence from his own handwritten notes now show, succeeded in having that first trial aborted because it had a jury of ten blacks and two whites.
The second trial, in Sept. 1972, had a Pender County jury of ten whites and two blacks, in addition to a judge that history shows was more favorable to the prosecution.