LETTERS FROM WILMINGTON TEN
PROSECUTION WITNESS CONFIRMS FRAME-UP
By Cash Michaels
His name was Allen Hall.
In 1972, Hall was the chief witness for the prosecution in the conspiracy trials against the Wilmington Ten – ten civil rights activists, led by the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis – accused of firebombing a white-owned grocery store during the height of racial violence in Wilmington in 1971.
According to New Hanover County prosecutor James Jay Stroud, Hall, a convicted felon, had the goods on Chavis and the others, and could confirm details of the conspiracy and plot.
There was just one problem with Stroud’s plan – in order to get Hall to testify to those false details in court, he had to keep the young troubled black man happy.
And in a forty-year-old letter from prison – a copy of which was obtained exclusively by The Carolinian and Wilmington Journal newspapers Tuesday from the Stroud files, now being kept in the archives at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library – Allen Hall wanted the prosecutor to keep him happy.
“Just a few lines to tell you that I need a woman,” was the very first sentence of the letter from Onslow County inmate Hall to prosecutor Stroud, dated August 16th, 1972.
Further in the missive Hall, who refers to himself as “Allen Graham,” tells the prosecutor,” you feel like a father to me, and that is why I call on you so much when I need someone.”
Saying that he didn’t have a father when he was growing up, Hall tells Stroud,” You make me know the real Allen, and what life is about. But the love that what (sic) I have for you is what a son have for a father. To me you are that father I never had.”
Hall talks about not caring what black people in Wilmington, or apparently one of his girlfriends, “Deborah,” thinks about his testifying against Ben Chavis. And yet, Hall openly struggles with the idea that he will testify against Chavis, apparently at the direction of prosecutor Stroud.
“Will my love (sic) ones have a bad time for me [if] I tell on Chavis [?],” Hall writes. “My mind is going up and down, and around, when will it stop. How many times will I ask my self this over and over [?]”
By the end of the three-page letter, Hall is literally begging Stroud to let him see either Deborah or “Antionette.”
Hall closes the letter by writing, “I will be a good nigger. From Allen Graham, or Stroud Jr.”
It was clear from the letter that Stroud’s star witness was emotionally attached to the white prosecutor. But it was also clear from notes in Stroud’s admitted own handwriting, that he was having trouble with Hall.
In June 1972, when Stroud was contemplating forcing a mistrial in the first Wilmington Ten trial because the jury was ten blacks and two whites, the prosecutor drew up a list of “Disadvantages and Advantages of a Mistrial.”
The Number Two reason on the disadvantages side was, “could effect Hall’s attitude and other witnesses.”
The Number 7 reason on the “advantages” was “…to keep out Hall’s letter”…from the trial, apparently one of many Hall had written, that would somehow cast doubt on his witness testimony, or suggest that Stroud was putting him up to it.
When the first trial was indeed aborted, and the second commenced in Sept. 1972,
Hall did testify against the Wilmington Ten. But at one point during the trial, he became so enraged under cross-examination by defense attorney James Ferguson, that Hall leapt off the stand in anger to attack Ferguson, only to be restrained by sheriff’s deputies.
The judge blamed Ferguson, not Hall, for the disruption.
The Wilmington Ten were all convicted and sentenced to 282 years in prison.
Several years later, Allen Hall and two other witnesses Stroud got to testify, told a judge that they all committed perjury, and recanted their testimonies.
They had all been paid in some form or fashion by the prosecutor, they claimed.
In Hall’s case, he was allowed to stay in a beach house, and see his girlfriend there, when he still had time to serve in prison.
In a letter that Hall sent to The Wilmington Journal when he was apparently serving time for another crime, he titles it, “A Cry for Help,” and states in it, “I have told you the people what they would do to me, to try and stop me from telling you the lies that [District Attorney] Allen Cobb and them made tell in court on Rev. Chavis an (sic) the Wilmington Ten.”
It was revealed in the December 1980 decision by the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that Allen Hall suffered from a mental illness, and Prosecutor Stroud knew, but failed to disclose that, and the fact that Hall had gotten medical attention for it, to the defense, for fear that it would have disqualified his testimony.
“These convictions were reversed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in December 4, 1980 as a result of that Court’s studied determinations that prosecutorial misconduct and other constitutional violations occurred during the Wilmington Ten prosecutions and trials,” attorney Irving Joyner for the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project, wrote in his legal petition for pardons of innocence to Gov. Beverly Perdue last May.
Joyner, in the legal petition, continued, “The only substantial witness that the State presented a trial was a convicted felon, Allen Hall, who testified that he along with other students allegedly engaged in a series of fire-bombings and fire-arm assaults upon police officers following a training session which Rev. Chavis conducted in the sanctuary at Gregory Congregational UCC. Hall’s testimony, which was given during a week of heated and contentious testimony, was the only alleged eyewitness account of criminal conduct by any Wilmington Ten member during the events from February 4th through February 7th when the students used and then vacated the Church’s sanctuary. Hall’s testimony was peripherally supported by Jerome Mitchell, a convicted felon and seventeen year old high school dropout, and Eric Junius, a twelve-year-old Junior High School drop-out. As recognized by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals: “When the trial record is examined, it is readily apparent that North Carolina’s case depended entirely on Hall’s credibility.”
Joyner continued, “During Hall’s trial testimony, he was repeatedly and vigorously cross-examined by defense attorneys who confronted Hall with numerous significant contradictions between his trial testimony and statements which he made in prior written statements to the Prosecutor. When repeatedly asked by defense attorneys to reconcile the discrepancies, Hall testified that he had amended the earlier statements with the State’s Prosecutor. Efforts by defense attorneys to obtain copies of the amended statements were resisted by the Prosecutor and upheld by the Trial Judge. At one point during Hall’s cross-examination, he became so enraged at the insistent and grueling questioning by Defense Attorney James Ferguson that he rushed from the witness stand and attempted to physically attack Ferguson in open Court.”
Joyner’s petition continued “In 1975, soon after the Supreme Court refusal to grant certiorari to review the convictions, Allen Hall recanted his trial testimony and publically admitted that he lied as a result of inducements and promises which were made to him by the State Prosecutor. Following Hall’s recantation, Jerome Mitchell and Eric Junius also recanted their testimonies.”
Joyner, a professor at the North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham, told The Carolinian that the Stroud files contained numerous troubling documents beyond just the racist jury selection notes, an Stroud calculus for causing a mistrial.
“My recollection,” Prof. Joyner said, “ is that there are notes in the file relating to:
1. Stroud's efforts to move Hall and Mitchell from different prison camps through the Onslow County Sheriff's Department to the beach where they stayed during the trial.
2. Information regarding the use of New Hanover County Deputies and Wilmington Police officers to guard Hall and Mitchell while they were at the beach.
3. Information regarding efforts to transport a young girl, along with her mother, to the beach because Hall said that the two of them were in love and he needed to see and talk with her.
4. One or more letters from hall telling Stroud that he was like the father to Hall that he never had and how much he loved him.
5. I believe that there was reference to an assault by Hall upon one of the officers while they stayed at the beach and Stroud's decision not to prosecute Hall for this crime because it might upset him.
6. I also believe that there was a note regarding a decision to move Hall and Mitchell to another beach rental because they saw [Wilmington Ten defense attorney James] Ferguson and some of the other attorneys walking on the beach near where Hall and Mitchell were initially being hidden.”
Allen Hall died several years ago.
Only his many letters speak for him now
SUTTON NEW WAKE SCHOOL BOARD CHAIR – Keith Sutton, the Wake School Board District 4 representative from Southeast Raleigh, was elected that body’s chairman Tuesday evening. Sutton, who has been on the board since he was appointed in 2009, and won election to a four-year term in 2011, recently served as vice chair under Kevin Hill, who decided to step down. Board member Christine Kushner, who was elected in 2011, was elevated to vice chairman. Both Sutton and Kushner were elected by the board’s Democratic majority. None of the Republican minority crossed over.
STATE NEWS BRIEFS
PRISON WARDEN SUSPENDED FOR PRISONER “HOT SAUCE” ABUSE
[CLINTON] Lafayette Hall, the warden of Sampson Correctional Institution, has been suspended from his job by the state Dept. of Public Safety while the SBI probes allegations that prisoners at the facility were forced to drink and rub hot sauce on their genitals, and pretend to have sex with each other for the entertainment of the prison guards. Corrections Office David P. Jones has been placed on leave as well in connection with the case. Inmates complained to the US District Court in Greensboro about the alleged abuse.
AT&T’S CYNTHIA MARSHALL PROMOTED, LEAVING FOR DALLAS, TX
[GREENSBORO] One of the most visible black corporate executives in the nation, Cynthia Marshall, president of AT&T in North Carolina, has been promoted, and now will be moving to Dallas, Texas to work at corporate headquarters as senior vice president of human resources. The company has touted her “wide range of experience” in the company. Marshall, 52, has been with AT&T for thirty years. She became president of North Carolina operations in 2007.
DIX PARK AGREEMENT RATIFIED BY STATE, RALEIGH CITY COUNCIL
[RALEIGH] To the chagrin of Republican leaders, the Democrat-led NC Council of State on Tuesday approved a deal with the city of Raleigh to lease the 300-acre campus of Dorothea Dix Hospital for the next 75 years at $68 million. The Raleigh City Council, in a 7-1 vote, gave the agreement a thumbs up as well. Critics say the process was rushed by Gov. Beverly Perdue because she is leaving office on January 5th. But supporters say the deal gives North Carolinians and their families a wide-open park to recreate. Republican Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger said he may challenge the agreement in court.
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS
CHAVIS PARK CAROUSEL RENOVATIONS LATE, OVER BUDGET
Renovations to the landmark Chavis Park carousel is running 45 days behind, the Raleigh City Council was told this week, and it’s going to cost $17,000 more to complete the work. The century-old carousel in Southeast Raleigh's iconic Chavis Park, a Raleigh Historic Landmark, is in desperate need of new paint, and a new building in which to house it. The City Council budgeted $1.8 million for the work last January.
DISBARRED DWI ATTORNEY SENTENCED TO PRISON
James Crouch, the Raleigh attorney who had a Wake District judge unknowingly sign documents illegally changing his DWI cases, was sentenced this week to between 12 and 34 months in prison. Crouch, who has since been disbarred from the practice of law, pleaded guilt top the charges last month. Crouch’s actions got District Court Kristen Ruth charged as well, forcing her to resign. She said she unknowingly signed whatever Crouch gave her because she trusted him. Crouch apologized to her in court before sentencing.
BRYAN ELECTED CHAIR OF WAKE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
Third time is a charm for Wake Commissioner Joe Bryan. Bryan was elected chairman of the Wake County Commission Board this week, succeeding Paul Coble on the 4-3 Republican-led board. Bryan served as chair previously in 2005 and 2008. He is considered to be a more moderate Republican commissioner than Coble, willing to work with the Democratic members.
CASH IN THE APPLE
By Cash Michaels
WILMINGTON TEN PARDON UPDATE – There is new stuff here. Trust me. But for the sake of those just seeing these Wilmington Ten updates in this column for the first time, let me start in my traditional way for the next four paragraphs, and then the new stuff begins with the petitions.
As you may know, besides being editor/chief reporter for The Carolinian Newspaper in Raleigh, and a staff writer at The Wilmington Journal in Wilmington, I am also coordinator for The Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project - sponsored by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (of which The Carolinian and Wilmington Journal are member newspapers) working to have Gov. Beverly Perdue grant pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten before she leaves office on January 5th.
The Wilmington Ten, as you know, were nine black males and one white female who, forty years ago, were falsely convicted and sentenced to 282 years in prison - some of which they all served - for crimes they did not commit in connection to racial violence in Wilmington in 1971.
History shows that the three witnesses who testified against the Ten later admitted they committed perjury. In Dec. 1980, the US Fourth Circuit of Appeals overturned the Ten’s convictions based on prosecutorial misconduct. But the state of North Carolina never followed suit.
Since then, four of the Wilmington Ten have died, never seeing the day when their names could be cleared.
In a few days, the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project will be delivering to the Governor’s Office over 14,200 petition signature names, asking Governor Beverly Perdue to grant pardons of innocence to the ten civil rights activists who were wrongly convicted 40 years ago.
That 14,200 is the first of two phases of petition names that will be given to the Governor’s Office before Christmas. Of that number, 10,122 resulted from the NAACP petition that was posted nationally just two weeks ago. And that petition is still going strong until next week, so if you haven’t been there, please go to sign at bit.ly/XiUYz8.
And we abundantly thank NC NAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber and his staff, and Eric Wingerter at the national NAACP and his staff, for working with the Pardon Project to make this happen.
Clearly the big petition news this week was rap music legend Russell Simmons sending a tweet out Monday and Tuesday to his over 2 million followers on Twitter, asking them to go to the NAACP petition site to sign the petition for the Wilmington Ten. And Simmons’ tweet was retweeted over 86 times, so we thank both he and Dr. Benjamin Chavis for that.
And then, of course, the NCNAACP and Duke University historian, Prof. Tim Tyson, unveiled the full contents of the Wilmington Ten files of former prosecutor James Jay Stroud on Tuesday, revealing more how Stroud framed the Ten forty years ago, and sent them all to prison.
So there is much happening, as we approach Christmas, regarding the Wilmington Ten case, and so much of it is good because of readers like you, who took the time to read and educate yourselves about this injustice, and did something about it, either by signing a petition, or writing a letter to Governor Perdue, asking her to pardon the Wilmington Ten.
We thank you. The work is not over, however. As long as there is still time for Gov. Perdue to make a decision, the Pardon Project and our supporters will continue to build support.
We are also asking, for those individuals, churches or institutions who wish to beyond just signing the petition, to send letters to Gov. Perdue asking her to grant pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten by Dec. 15th.
Here is that address:
Hon. Beverly Eaves Perdue
Governor of North Carolina
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301
If you want more information about the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project, you can go to www.wilmingtonjournal.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheWilmingtonTenPardonOfInnocenceProject.
Please, as we enter this holy season of Christmas, let us deliver peace and justice to those who have been forty years denied.
As a black journalist, and a proud member of the community, after forty long years, I’d like to see justice done for the Wilmington Ten.
I sincerely hope that you do too.
PETITION COMMENTS – The Change.org Wilmington Ten Pardons Project petition had the extra-added feature of getting comments from its signers. Of the 1163 that signed, 216 posted comments on why they felt Gov. Perdue should grant pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten.
Deborah from Norristown, PA wrote, “Injustice should not be tolerated in our society. This is a terrible waste of the lives of these people and a travesty of justice. Please pardon the Wilmington Ten.
Cynthia of Littleton, CO wrote, “ [The Wilmington ten] were fighting for a justifiable cause. We are all created equal.”
Shirley of Wilmington, NC wrote, “I was there. I experienced the discrimination the City invoked on us.”
And Barbara of Washington, D.C. recalled, “I am a native of Wilmington, NC and I grew up in Gregory Congregational United church of Christ, where both my parents were supportive of the Wilmington Ten group and the issues they supported. It is pass (sic) time that they receive a pardon. I encourage Gov. Perdue to move expeditiously to make this happen.”
That’s just four of the 1163 that signed the Change.org petition. Many were from Wilmington, and read the Wilmington Journal. And certainly in Raleigh, many are readers of the Carolinian.
But still more live well beyond the state of North Carolina, and took the time to also weigh-in. Some read one of our many member black newspapers of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the official sponsor of the Pardons Project.
And some don’t. Indeed, many of those who have signed the petition are white, Hispanic, or from a foreign country. Many different faiths are represented on that Change.org petition signature list. Some are gay, many are straight.
The bottomline is, AMERICA is speaking out in support of pardons for the Wilmington Ten.
And it is a good feeling indeed to see in the over 14,000 names collected thus far.
A good feeling. Thank you. Let’s all hope and pray that Gov. Perdue will be touched by these comments and numbers, and in the end, do the right thing.
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at www.myWAUG.com. And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my new blog, ‘The Cash Roc” (http://thecashroc.blogspot.com/2011/01/cash-roc-begins.html). I promise it will be interesting.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.
FOR THE CAROLINIAN -
WILMINGTON TEN PROSECUTOR
CALLED “DELUSIONAL” FOR
By Cash Michaels
Special to the NNPA from The Wilmington Journal
[WILMINGTON, NC] Saying that former New Hanover County prosecutor James Jay Stroud, the author of the infamous “Stroud file” trial notes, is “delusional” for still defending his “frame-up” of the Wilmington Ten forty years ago, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, leader of the Ten, along with others in the Wilmington Ten pardons effort, maintains that Stroud’s recent remarks in a local newspaper interview last week were disturbing.
“Stroud's latest admissions of his zeal to unjustly convict us is just another fact why the Wilmington Ten should be granted a pardon of innocence by Governor Perdue,” Dr. Chavis told The Wilmington Journal. “Stroud is still delusional forty years later about basic fairness and equality under the law.”
“I pray that Stroud will one day find it in his heart to repent for the wrong that he has done with respect to the Wilmington Ten.”
Dr. Chavis was reacting to Stroud’s remarks confirming, for the first time, that recently discovered handwritten trial notes documenting the former prosecutor’s attempt to racially gerrymander the Wilmington Ten jury, were indeed his.
“Facts are facts, and it is an irrefutable fact that all the members of the Wilmington Ten were completely innocent in 1972 of the racially-motivated framed-up charges filed against us by prosecutor Jay Stroud,” Dr. Chavis said.
“It is a fact that the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturned our unjust convictions on December 4, 1980. Today in 2012, we, the Wilmington Ten, are still innocent of Stroud's unjust and illegal fabrication,” Chavis maintained.
In a Nov. 28th Wilmington StarNews interview reportedly conducted in October, but published online only after the NCNAACP’s Nov. 27th press conference in Raleigh calling upon Gov. Perdue to pardon the Wilmington Ten, Stroud was reportedly shown copies of his handwritten notes from the June 1972 trial by a reporter, and confirmed their authenticity.
During jury selection for the June 1972 trial of the ten activists charged with conspiracy in the firebombing of a white-owned grocery store during racial violence a year earlier, Stroud wrote “stay away from black men,” sought only “Uncle Tom type” black jurors, and numerously wrote “KKK…OK” next to the names of several prospective white jurors.
But the former prosecutor denied that racism, as the NCNAACP maintains, played any role in his jury selection. The “KKK…good” reference Stroud wrote in variations next to several white potential jurors’ names on the legal pad, for example, “…was a strike against the juror because of the potential of a hung jury,” Stroud said.
“I could have had an all-white jury, but I didn’t want to do that,” Stroud told The StarNews. “Why would I leave a KKK on the jury?”
But Stroud’s negative ratings for potential jurors were unmistakable. Next to several on his list, especially if they had a “B” for blacks written in front of their names or numbers, Stroud wrote, “Leave off” or “stay away from,” but never “good” as he did for the “KKK” jurors he wanted impaneled.
Stroud further told the StarNews that he wanted “conservative blacks” on the jury, later specifying that “Uncle Tom-type” means, “blacks that could be fair.”
Because a jury of ten blacks and two whites was finally impaneled during the June 1972 trial, Stroud, citing “illness,” forced a mistrial to get a jury and judge more to his favor, the NCNAACP says. His own handwritten notes on the back of a legal pad, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of a mistrial, betrayed his intent, the civil rights organization says.
A reporter for the StarNews said Stroud was asked about his mistrial notes, and while he didn’t deny he did write them, he also claimed that he really did get sick, so the paper never printed his answer.
Even now, if Stroud admitted that he forced a mistrial in the June 1972 proceedings because he didn’t like the mostly black jury, he could be charged with a crime, legal experts say.
It was in the second trial in September that year –with a jury this time of ten whites and two blacks - that the nine African-American males, led by civil rights activist Rev. Benjamin Chavis, and one white female, were falsely convicted. They were all sentenced to 282 years in prison, some of which they served, before they were released from prison early after immense public pressure.
In the StarNews article, former prosecutor Stroud still maintained that despite a federal appellate court’s 1980 ruling – which not only overturned all of the Wilmington Ten’s convictions, but also cited him specifically for gross prosecutorial misconduct – the Wilmington Ten were guilty, and deserved to go to prison.
“They got more than a fair deal as far as I’m concerned,” Stroud was quoted as telling the Wilmington newspaper. “I think they should have had to serve their sentences like any other convicted felon.”
Ironically in that same StarNews article where Stroud is convinced that the Wilmington Ten couldn’t have possibly been anything but guilty, he adamantly agreed that prosecutorial frame-ups do exist.
When asked about his twelve convictions over the past six years, mostly in Gaston County, for charges ranging from domestic violence to repeatedly ramming cars because, the former prosecutor told a judge, “Satan was with [the drivers],” Stroud, who lost his license to practice law in 2008 replied, “I am not guilty of any of the charges that were leveled against me as stated in the warrants. All of the charges were false and fabricated.”
Jay Stroud did serve time in jail for several of those charges. He told the Gaston Gazette that he’s suffered from a bipolar disorder since his time in college.
Attorney Irving Joyner, who, along with James Ferguson, the lead defense attorney forty years ago for the Wilmington Ten, filed the pardon petition papers last May requesting that Gov. Beverly Perdue grant pardons of actual innocence to each member of the Wilmington Ten, was outraged by Stroud’s remarks..
“We have never presented any information regarding the Wilmington Ten case which has not been fully vetted and determined to be absolutely accurate,” Joyner, who is also a law professor at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law in Durham, told The Wilmington Journal.
“Jay Stroud did no more than acknowledge the obvious with respect to his authorship of the racially inspired efforts to prevent African-Americans from serving on the Wilmington Ten jury. In the same handwriting, he also described his successful effort to fake an illness, misrepresent his medical condition to the Court, and to deliberately perpetrate a fraud in Court, a criminal offense,” Joyner continued.
“The comments and notes, which Stroud made, speak for themselves, and further support the obvious conclusion that the persecution of the Wilmington Ten was racially inspired and constitutionally deficient.”
“It is now up to the Governor of North Carolina,” Joyner said, “to determine whether she is going to correct an injustice, or stand on the side of a racist and illegal persecution in the name of the State of North Carolina.”
At the NCNAACP’s Nov. 27th press conference, veteran civil rights attorney Al McSurely told reporters the trial tactics Stroud used against the Wilmington Ten were illegal, and that the State Bureau of Investigation should look into the matter, and then put the former prosecutor in jail.
NC NAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber, who blasted Stroud at the press conference for his “unconstitutional” and “racist” tactics to “frame” the Wilmington Ten, found his StarNews comments justification for further condemnation.
“The more we learn the truths about how race polluted and poisoned the unjust, unconstitutional and unethical prosecutorial acts utilized on this case by Stroud, to frame and falsely convict these young people, the more disturbing they are,” Rev. Barber exclusively told The Wilmington Journal.
“We have a crooked prosecutor who fostered a crooked persecution of innocent individuals, who now wants to admit on one hand his actions, and then on the other hand engage in a distressing revisionist rationale as to why he did what he did. NC must see all of these facts for what they are and represent---- calculated and sinister racism used in our court system.”
Rev. Barber continued, “Only a pardon can begin to cleanse the depth of wrong being further revealed.”