RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP says newly discovered notes by the prosecutor in the Wilmington 10 case show he engaged in racial profiling to select a jury that would be more favorable for a conviction.
Ten activists were convicted of arson in 1972 for burning a white-owned grocery store during race riots that followed a police officer's fatal shooting of a black teenager.
Three key witnesses in the case later recanted their testimony, and all 10 men were freed in 1980 when the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., threw out the convictions, saying perjury and prosecutorial misconduct were factors in the verdicts.
State NAACP President Rev. William Barber said notes taken by former Pender County prosecutor Jay Stroud show he lied to a judge to get a mistrial so he could pick another jury in the case. He then used a race-based strategy during jury selection.
The notes in Stroud's handwriting show "KKK? (good)" next to the names of potential white jurors, and a black member of the jury pool was referred to as an "Uncle Tom." Stroud used his challenges to remove blacks from the jury pool, Barber said.
"This new evidence is a nightmare. It's a nightmare to see evidence of this district attorney committing such egregious acts of hate and racism on behalf of the citizens of North Carolina," Barber said. "The evidence clearly reveals the injustice that took place in the convictions of the Wilmington 10 and the entrenched racism that polluted the process."
Stroud, whose law license was suspended in 2006, couldn't be reached Tuesday for comment. His son, Kirk Stroud, said his father would have no comment on the NAACP's allegations.
Irving Joyner, a law professor at North Carolina Central University, said spending several years in prison took a toll on the men.
"They have suffered mightily. They have lost everything," Joyner said. "Careers are gone, educational opportunities gone, employment destroyed (and) families demolished as a result of the consequences."
The NAACP and other groups have asked Gov. Beverly Perdue to pardon the activists, four of whom have died, before she leaves office in early January.
"The petition for the Pardon of Innocence on behalf of the Wilmington 10, like each petition, is being considered on its own merits," Perdue spokeswoman Chris Mackey said in a statement. "There is no timetable by which the governor has to make a decision."
Veteran civil rights attorney Al McSurely said the State Bureau of Investigation should look into Stroud's actions in the case.
"This is direct evidence. This evidence should put Mr. Stroud in jail," McSurely said.