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Pardons issued for members of Wilmington 10

| Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, 7:12 p.m.

RALEIGH — Outgoing North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue issued pardons on Monday to the Wilmington 10, a group wrongly convicted 40 years ago in a notorious Civil Rights-era prosecution that led to accusations that the state was holding political prisoners.

Perdue issued pardons of innocence for the nine black men and one white woman who received prison sentences totaling nearly 300 years for the 1971 firebombing of a Wilmington grocery store during three days of violence that included the shooting of a black teenager by police.

The pardon means the state no longer thinks the 10 — four of whom have since died — committed a crime.

“I have decided to grant these pardons because the more facts I have learned about the Wilmington 10, the more appalled I have become about the manner in which their convictions were obtained,” Perdue said in a news release.

In 1978, then-Gov. Jim Hunt commuted their sentences but withheld a pardon. Two years later, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, threw out the convictions, saying perjury and prosecutorial misconduct were factors in the verdicts.

The surviving members of the Wilmington 10 are Benjamin Chavis, Reginald Epps, James McKoy, Wayne Moore, Marvin Patrick and Willie Earl Vereen. Those who died are Jerry Jacobs, Ann Shepard, Connie Tindall and Joe Wright.

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