More requests for Wilmington 10 pardons to Perdue

Members of the Wilmington 10 in 1972

December 27, 2012 9:36:36 AM PST
Surviving members of the Wilmington 10 made another trip to Raleigh Thursday to present to North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue more names of people who want her to declare them formally innocent.

A group backing their pardons presented more than 130,000 petition names from an Internet-based campaign to a Perdue representative. Benjamin Chavis and three other living Wilmington 10 members participated. Pardon backers gave Perdue's office 14,000 names earlier.

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.

Perdue could rule on the pardon requests before she leaves office Jan. 5.

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