Outgoing North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue issued pardons Monday to the Wilmington 10, a group wrongly convicted 40 years ago in a notorious Civil Rights-era prosecution claiming they firebombed a grocery store.
Pardons of innocence were issued Monday for the nine black men and one white woman — four of whom have already died — accused in the 1971 firebombing of a grocery store in Wilmington after police shot a black teenager, reported the Associated Press. The 10 were collectively sentenced to nearly 300 years in prison, and the pardons mean the state no longer thinks they committed the crime.
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"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 Monday.
According to MSNBC, more than 130,000 people had signed their names to petitions demanding the Wilmington 10 be pardoned that were delivered to the governor’s office.
The AP also noted that the Civil Rights-era case led to accusations of the state holding political prisoners. The three key witnesses in the case later recanted their testimony, and groups like Amnesty International took up the issue, calling the Wilmington 10 political prisoners.