Ann Blyth of the Charlotte Observer is reporting that North Carolina Bev Perdue has pardoned members of the Wilmington 10, a group of civil rights activists, falsely accused and convicted of crimes they did not commit. Blyth writes:
“Ben Chavis fell to his knees in prayer on Monday after learning that Gov. Bev Perdue had pardoned him some four decades after a tainted and racially biased Civil Rights-era prosecution wrongfully sent him to prison.
With five days left in office, Perdue issued a full pardon of innocence for Chavis and the nine others who became known as the Wilmington 10…
Chavis, who went to Wilmington in 1971 as head of the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice, has lived much of his life clouded by a smoldering injustice.
In 1971, Chavis was arrested with eight other black men and one white woman and accused of firebombing a white-owned grocery store in a black neighborhood in Wilmington. They also were accused of shooting at emergency workers who responded to the blaze.
The accused denied any role in the fire or the shooting, but they were convicted of arson and conspiracy and sentenced to prison.”
The Wilmington 10 served several years in prison before their sentences were commuted but not pardoned by then Governor Jim Hunt. In addition to Chavis, the surviving members of the Wilmington 10 are Reginald Epps, James McKoy, Wayne Moor, Marvin Patrick and Willie Earl Vereen. Those who have died are Jerry Jacobs, Ann Shepard, Connie Tindall and Joe Wright. Wright was the youngest, arrested when he was 16 years old.
Read more at the Charlotte Observer.