Target: North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue
Goal: Thank the North Carolina governor for acknowledging the innocence of falsely convicted activists
Beverly Perdue, the governor of North Carolina, recently pardoned the “Wilmington 10,” a group of mostly young African-American activists who were wrongfully convicted of arson during an early 1970s civil rights protest. Although they were released from prison several years later, after it was discovered that the prosecutors in the case had withheld information and encouraged witnesses to lie, they were never officially pardoned by the state for their false imprisonment. Additionally, notes written by the main prosecutor were recently found that made it clear that the jury selection was racially-motivated.
Several years after their conviction, an appeals court determined that the Wilmington 10 could not be proven guilty and allowed the activists to be released from prison. By finally granting these activists pardons of innocence, Governor Perdue has acknowledged they were convicted unfairly based on the prejudices of the prosecutors. In addition to removing the stigma of never being proven innocent, this pardon allows the surviving members of the Wilmington 10 to seek compensation for the damage that their wrongful imprisonment has had on their lives.
The recently discovered notes written by the prosecutor showed that he intentionally sought out white supremacists to serve as jurors and attempted to prevent black citizens from being on the jury. It was clear that this prosecutor was not acting out of a commitment to justice; his intentions were to preserve the racism that often affected court decisions at the time. Even before the Wilmington 10 were released, several of the witnesses admitted to being encouraged to present false information in their testimonies, further proving the activists’ innocence.
By officially admitting that the state was wrong in convicting the Wilmington 10, state officials hope to demonstrate a desire to remove the state from its racist past and ensure that court decisions are made fairly, instead of being motivated by prejudice. Racism continues to affect court decisions around the country, and North Carolina’s admission might influence other states to admit that these inequalities still exist. Commend Governor Perdue for officially recognizing the innocence of the Wilmington 10 and acknowledging the racism that has plagued the state’s history.
Dear Governor Perdue,
Although they were released from prison several decades ago, the Wilmington 10 have had to live most of their lives without being officially deemed innocent. The recently discovered notes written by the prosecutor revealed that the court decision was based on racism, and not on a fair assessment of the evidence. While it has been known for many years that evidence was withheld and witnesses gave false information, this prosecutor’s racist notes further prove their innocence.
In addition to giving the surviving members of the Wilmington 10 the opportunity to receive compensation for the damage incurred from their wrongful imprisonment, the state has now acknowledged its racist past and given other states the opportunity to recognize their own discriminatory decisions. Thank you for officially pardoning these innocent citizens and ensuring that future court decisions are determined fairly.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Safety Neal via Flickr.