NNPA STORIES -
STATE NEWS BRIEFS
LT. GOV BLASTS COOPER FOR APPROVING IMMIGRANT DRIVER’S LICENSES
[RALEIGH] North Carolina Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is criticizing NC Attorney Gen. Roy Cooper for ruling that young illegal immigrants in the state should be issued driver’s licenses if they’re enrolled in the federal deferred deportation program, meaning that they cannot be deported during the two years they are enrolled in the program. “We are a sovereign state and need to stand up and push back when the Feds encroach on our ability to protect our citizens and enforce our laws,” Forest said in a statement. “The Attorney General's ruling leaves open the possibility that the DMV can issue licenses to those individuals who came to our country and state illegally. I disagree with this action." The NC DMV has yet to decide to reissue the licenses, after recently revoking them.
HIGH LEVELS OF PESTICIDES FOUND IN WAKE NEIGHBORHOOD WATER
[RALEIGH] Over half the drinking wells in a Raleigh neighborhood tested positive for high levels of pesticides, state and federal officials have determined. Of the 30 homes tested near Bond Street and Trawick Road, sixteen were found to have wells that were contaminated with dieldrin and chlordane, two chemicals used years ago to fight termites. The source of the contamination has not been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency, but the investigation continues. Those with infected wells are being supplied with bottled water.
STATE JOBLESS RATE RISES IN DECEMBER
[GREENSBORO] Unemployment was on the rise in December, according to state figures, rising .1 percent to 9.2, from 9.1 in November. In addition, at lest 17,395 North Carolinians joined the labor force in the last month of 2012. Overall, the state’s unemployment rate for 2012 fell one point, from10.2 in January, to 9.2 in December.
TRIANGLE NEWS – 01-24-13
RECEPTION FOR WAKE SCHOOL BOARD CHAIR SUTTON
The Flood Group and the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association are sponsoring a “celebratory reception” for newly elected Wake School Board Chairman Keith Sutton on Friday, February 1st, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Martin Street Baptist Church, 1001 East Martin Street, Raleigh. The event is free and open to the public.
WAKE DEPUTY DISCIPLINED FOR NRA EMAIL AT WORK
A Wake County deputy was disciplined after he reportedly sent out an invitation to join the National Rifle Association via his county email account. A spokesperson for the Wake Sheriff’s Dept. says Deputy Brad Manville received a “personnel action” because using the department’s email system for personal purposes was “inappropriate.” The issue is now considered closed, the spokesperson said.
THREE DURHAM POLICE OFFICERS ARRESTED
Three Durham police officers were arrested last Friday and each charged with one count of false imprisonment and one count of assault in connection with an earlier larceny that night. Lt. Ryan A. Freeman, Officer Stacy Armstrong and Officer Erin Espinola were off-duty at the time. They were all additionally charged with breaking and entering. Three civilians were also charged with the officers. Police Chief Jose Lopez says the incident is being thoroughly investigated.
PRES. OBAMA WAVES DURING SECOND INAUGURATION
BY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
United States Capitol
On January 21st, 2013 at 11:55 A.M., President Barack Obama took the oath of office to begin his second term as president of the United States, becoming the only African-American in history to do so.
These are his words.
THE PRESIDENT: Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice,
members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. (Applause.) The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
And for more than two hundred years, we have.
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people. (Applause.)
This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. (Applause.) An economic recovery has begun. (Applause.) America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it -- so long as we seize it together. (Applause.)
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. (Applause.) We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own. (Applause.)
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. (Applause.) For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.
We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. (Applause.) They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. (Applause.)
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. (Applause.) Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.
The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. (Applause.) Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. (Applause.) Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war; who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends -- and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully –- not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. (Applause.)
America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice –- not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. (Applause.)
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law –- (applause) -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity -- (applause) -- until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.
That is our generation’s task -- to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time. (Applause.)
For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. (Applause.) We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction. And we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.
They are the words of citizens and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time -- not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals. (Applause.)
Let us, each of us, now embrace with solemn duty and awesome joy what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.
Thank you. God bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America. (Applause.)
CASH IN THE APPLE
By Cash Michaels
IN FLORIDA THIS WEEK – Fort Lauderdale, to be exact, for the Mid-Winter Conference of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). We were invited down, along with attorneys Irv Joyner and James Ferguson, and civil rights activist Dr. Benjamin Chavis, to address black newspaper publishers from across the nation about our successful efforts to secure pardons of innocence for the Wilmington Ten.
As you know, it was the NNPA in March 2013 that first voted to pursue pardons, and justice, in the 40-year-old case, at the urging of Wilmington Journal publisher Mary Alice Thatch. Our efforts caught fire in January 2012 when we created the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project, and GOD blessed us with a successful conclusion Dec. 31st when Gov. Beverly Perdue indeed granted the pardons.
So Irv, Ferguson, Ben and myself have a lot to talk about, and we’re proud to do so. NNPA deserves to celebrate perhaps its greatest accomplishment ever.
Now onward to the documentary (a CashWorks HD Production, of course).
INSANITY – The debate over gun rights in the nation has become as asinine as a debate can become. And so there is no question where I stand, I stand with the president of the United States on this – as Americans, we have the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms” for the lawful purposes of protection, sport and collection.
But that doesn’t mean you should have the capacity to mow down people indiscriminately. And yet, the National Rifle Association would have you believe that if a bad guy has a 30-bullet magazine and semi-automatic weapon with which to fire with, then every citizen should have one too.
Common sense tells you that if the bad guys weren’t able to legally purchase one, or steal one from a careless gun owner, that he wouldn’t have one. Gun owners say if the police did their jobs in cutting down on crime, there would be less guns on the street. Well, one of the ways to best keep illegal semi-automatic weapons off the street is to limit their sale and distribution in the first place.
But the gun nuts have taken all of this a step further. They say that they are entitled too own weapons per their civil rights…and their natural rights, those unalienable rights given to them by GOD.
So GOD wants us all to have a Bushmaster AR 10, eh?
Press these fools further, and you find out that that they are absolutely convinced that President Obama is an anti-American liberal stooge who is coming, along with US Attorney General Eric Holder, to take their guns away.
They are convinced of this nonsense, and they’re ready to fight, and fight hard, as if this were 1776. Indeed, gun rights folks believe that they are supposed to have the same weapons that the government does in order to fight the “tyranny” of the government when it comes to “taking” their weapons.
There are some gun rights advocates who are literally twisting themselves in knots with their illogic.
For example, one local conservative commentator who has made no secret that he is for the passage of a photo voter ID law (because we must safeguard the integrity of our electoral system, he says), is heartily against passage of gun control.
Mind you, the degree of voter fraud in our state and nation is scarce and rare indeed. There is no proven need for photo voter ID. And yet this conservative says it is wise to install it to prevent any from occurring.
But switch the subject to gun control, and said conservative says school massacres like the kind we saw in Newtown, Conn. last month are “rare,” and the number of gun shootings have been going down for the past several years (these are his thoughts, not mine) therefore we shouldn’t waste our time with any of the president’s gun control recommendations at all.
Gee, seems to me that either you stay consistent, regardless of the issue, or you hang up your credibility cloth. Given that life and limb are at risk with gun control, I’d like it if we erred on the side to make sure that another Newtown school massacre never happens again.
Meanwhile, the latest outrage from gun lovers land is this attempt by the folks who sponsored last weekend’s disastrous “Gun Appreciation Day last Saturday now makes a play for the black community’s support.
Not only do I find this weird and ignorant, but insulting.
Larry Ward, the so-called “chairman” of this Gun Appreciation Day (GAD) nonsense, maintains that if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were still alive today, he would be advocating for the civil and “natural” rights of gun owners.
You and I, and anybody with an ounce of sense know differently.
Dr. King was a man of peace, in addition to a man of GOD. He was a disciple of Mahatma Ghandi, so he believed fervently in nonviolence. To suggest that a man who deplored violence of any sort, would stand on the side of crazy gun lovers, is moronic at best, delirious at the least.
But the GAD folks don’t stop there.
They also want to lure the black community over to their side using popular figures like “Django” and Bill Cosby, and saying things like if the slaves were allowed to have guns, there would have been an end to slavery.
First of all, “Django” is a fictional movie character to a film I have no intention of seeing until it’s available for a $1.00 rental at my local supermarket kiosk. Not interested in seeing Quentin Tarantino’s made-up version of slavery. That’s all.
Secondly, to use something that comedian Bill Cosby said many, many years ago before the fatal shooting death of his son is barbaric.
African-Americans don’t want more guns in their community, they want less. We die at the hands of some fool with a firearm in our communities more than any other Americans, and before the Newtown massacre, we were crying the loudest, and the most often for President Obama to do something about the proliferation of weapons on our streets.
We wanted him to act much sooner than he has, but we’re glad that the president is finally acting now.
So this weak conservative attempt to draw the black community away from the president when he is actually doing what we want, is foolish, and racist.
This is going to be a hard fought battle in the Congress and the nation over gun control. It’s time to stop the drivebys and the school massacres.
And it’s definitely time to tune out the wackos who only want to hold onto their last vestige of “manhood” as defined by the ability to take another life.
Funny, I always thought that real manhood was the ability to help build productive lives.
CONGRATULATIONS MR. PRESIDENT – It was a proud moment last Sunday, and again on Monday, the King holiday, to see President Barack Obama make history again taking the oath of office for his second term as our nation’s leader.
The president has been through a lot, but he has been toughened to the point where the nation has learned to trust his leadership. He is beloved, and seen as a good family man. Those who have tried desperately to vilify him, have failed miserably.
There is no question that President Barack Obama’s enormous place in history is secure.
Praise be to GOD that he be kept safe, and secure.
CONDI AND CBS – In an effort to boost its sagging morning and evening news ratings, CBS has hired former Bush Administration Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice to be an analyst and commentator.
This should be interesting, because most of the international messes we find ourselves in started on her watch as National Security Advisor for President George W. Bush. So now she’ll have a national platform to rhetorically clean up her mess, while at the same time, criticizing the president s he tries to fix stuff.
Good going, CBS News. I see the brains over there are firing on all fours. Don’t think it’s going to do much for your numbers though. You folks have a horrible time knowing a good story when you see one.
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 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.
GUN LOBBY WANTS BLACK SUPPORT
By Cash Michaels
The predominately-white gun rights group that promoted the national “Gun Appreciation Day” (GAD) Jan. 19th is now trying to woo African-American support in their efforts to oppose Pres. Obama’s gun control agenda, which they called, “some of the most outrageous attacks on civil liberties in our nation’s history.”
GAD Chairman Larry Ward, who is white, told The Carolinian last week that if civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were still alive today, he would support both the civil and “natural” rights of gun owners who believe the Second Amendment is absolute.
“I believe that Gun Appreciation Day honors the legacy of Dr. King…and I stand by that,” Ward said last week. He went to say that during the civil rights movement,”…most of the fights that took place were surrounded by the inequity…the inequality of African-Americans’ access to guns to defend themselves.”
Ward did concede that Dr. King died by an assassin’s bullet.
Ward continued that because local laws restricted gun ownership to blacks at that time, they were unable to defend themselves against the Ku Klux Klan. He says the same situation exists in crime-ridden cities like New York and Chicago today, where African-Americans, Ward says, “…do not have the same access to defend yourself, … as someone who lives in West Texas does.”
This week, Ward’s GAD group buttressed its argument for black community support by publishing an op-ed titled, “What Would Django Do? Arms and ‘The Man’” by Dr. Jonathan David Farley, a African-American mathematician at Harvard University and National Rifle Association supporter.
In the piece, Dr. Farley writes, “Historically, guns have been the African-American’s greatest friend.” Farley then goes on to cite Ida B. Wells, comedian Bill Cosby, abolitionists John Brown and Frederick Douglas, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and India’s civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi as supporters of firearmed self-defense.
History records that both Dr. King and Gandhi abhorred violence of any sort, and Cosby lost his son Ennis to gun violence.
“Racism in America is now gone like an exorcised ghost,” Dr. Farley writes, “but African-Americans would do well to remember our history when it comes to gun control.”
“Instead of turning schools into zero-tolerance zones for guns, we should let the NRA teach special classes in gun use, sort of like Driver’s Ed, and there should be ROTC in all schools.”
Farley concludes, “If African-Americans had had the right to keep and bear arms from the founding of the republic, America today might be the promised land for African-Americans.”
There are many in the black community across the nation who would disagree with Dr. Farley, the NRA and GAD. With black-on-black gun violence the leading cause of death nationally of young black males, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bringing more guns into the community, many say, is not the answer.
Indeed, white conservatives, like Ann Coulter, have tried to deflect from the recent and all to often profile of mass shooters as being young white males, telling Fox News recently, “ Perhaps it’s not a gun problem, it is a demographic problem.”
Coulter has also, in the past, written that the NRA is a “friend” to the African-American community.
For those who intend to bitterly fight Pres. Obama’s efforts at gun control, the issue really isn’t about defending themselves against crooks and criminals who may threaten their families or property.
They believe their Second Amendment right to bear arms is sacred for the purpose of having the ability to fight the government in the event the government came to take their guns.
“The principal reason the colonists won the American Revolution is that they possessed weapons equivalent in power and precision to those of the British government,” wrote Andrew Napolitano, a former judge, and now a Fox News analyst, in a Washington Times column recently.
Irving Joyner, professor of law at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law,
dismisses the gun lobby’s claims of having inalienable “natural” rights to own semi-automatic weapons of mass destruction.
“This notion of a “natural right” to own and use guns has no support in the law,” Joyner says, adding that the constitutional right to own duly licensed firearms for the purpose of protection is not absolute because it is subject to “some regulation by the government.”
Joyner calls groups like the NRA and GAD “anarchists who hold the view that they have the right to overthrow the government, and that anything that the government does is wrong.”
The law professor adds that while most Americans support the Second Amendment, that doesn’t mean people have the right to own bazookas or “every realm of weapon that is available to government.”
“That is not a position supported by the [US] Supreme Court,” Joyner says.
Regarding whether Dr. King would support the “civil and natural” rights of gun lobbyists, Joyner was blunt.
“This is just another example of extremists pimping Martin Luther King, and what Dr. King stood for,” attorney Joyner said. “Dr. King talked about nonviolence, and clearly the overthrow of the government has nothing to do with nonviolence.”
Joyner did warn the African-American community to keep a close eye on how these “anarchists” are stockpiling weapons for some eventuality that may not be in the black community’s interest. Guns and ammunition sold out across the nation right after President Obama’s first and second elections, and after the Newtown, Conn. school massacre.
“We need to be concerned about who is buying all of these guns, and what they are going to be using these guns for. And respect to African-Americans and Hispanics, we need to give some consideration to the notion of our being defenseless to guard against any effort by these gun enthusiasts to direct those guns against [us].
WILMINGTON TEN SEEK COMPENSATION
By Cash Michaels
Special to the NNPA from the Wilmington Journal
[WILMINGTON, NC] Now that the Wilmington Ten, after over forty years, have been legally granted pardons of actual innocence from the state of North Carolina, their attorneys are now hard at work on the next phase – compensation.
“We are in the process now of preparing an effort to seek compensation for the living members of the Wilmington Ten, and the decedents of the four deceased [Wilmington Ten members] who had died,” attorney Irving Joyner, professor of law at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law, told The Wilmington Journal. “There are significant legal questions remaining that we have to deal with, but we’re working through that now, and trying to develop the strategy that we need to go forward.”
It was January 5th, during a jammed-packed church service led by NC NAACP Pres. Rev. Dr. William Barber at Gregory Congregational United Church of Christ, that five of the six remaining members of the Wilmington Ten – Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Wayne Moore, Willie Earl Vereen, James McKoy, and Marvin Patrick (Reginald Epps was unable to attend) – and the families of deceased members Anne Shepard, William Joe Wright, Jerry Jacobs and Connie Tindall, officially received their certificates, signed by then Gov. Beverly Perdue on Dec. 31st, 2012, declaring each innocent of the 1972 conspiracy charges they were convicted of stemming from the burning of a white-owned grocery store during racial strife there a year earlier.
They were collectively sentenced to 282 years in prison, some of which they all served before their sentences were commuted in 1978 by then Gov. James B. Hunt.
The case against the Ten began unraveling two years earlier when the state’s three witnesses admitted in court that they perjured themselves during the trial; the human rights group Amnesty International declared the Ten “political prisoners of conscience”; and in March 1977, the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes” uncovered evidence proving the Wilmington Ten were innocent.
Finally, in December 1980, the US Fourth Circuit of Appeals overturned all of the Wilmington Ten convictions, and ordered North Carolina to either retry the defendants, or dismiss all charges. The state did neither, forcing the Ten into legal limbo for the next 32 years, and leaving them vulnerable to be retried at any point.
Under North Carolina law, a person legally declared innocent is entitled to $50,000 a year in compensation for every year that they were falsely imprisoned, not exceeding $750,000.
All of the Wilmington Ten were indeed in prison for varying periods ranging from three to seven years, though they were originally sentenced from 15 to 34 years in prison – Ben Chavis receiving the longest sentence.
But with the state refusing to either retry or dismiss charges for over three decades, leaving all of the Ten legally exposed, does that constitute a degree of false imprisonment that they should now be compensated for?
In the original clemency papers filed with the Governor’s Office last year, both attorney Joyner, and James Ferguson, the original lead defense attorney for the Wilmington Ten over forty years ago, argued how each member, and their families, have suffered mightily as a result of the negative impact the false convictions have had on their lives.
Willie Earl Vereen never became the doctor he had hoped to become. Connie Tindall, a high school football champion, never made it to the NFL as he’d planned. Other Wilmington Ten members were shunned by their churches when they left prison, and fired from jobs because of their association.
And two Wilmington Ten members – Jerry Jacobs and William Joe Wright – died because of diseases they directly contracted while in prison.
Attorney Joyner says his team is looking at every avenue, every argument.
“That is one of the things we’re trying to look at in terms of trying to identify the appropriate theories to go forth,” he told the Journal. “The stronger one is the statutory one where there is a finding of a pardon of innocence, the granting of the pardon of innocence, that they’re entitled to a certain established compensation for each year that they spent in prison. But we’re looking at all angles on this, and we have a team that we’re conferring with now to figure out exactly what is the most appropriate and best strategy to use in going forward.”
Attorney Joyner reiterates that while the focus has now shifted to compensation, one hundred percent of the previous effort was about proving the Wilmington Ten innocent. With the National Newspaper Publishers Association sponsoring the effort, and the Wilmington Journal taking the lead over the past year, to Joyner’s delight, that monumental task was accomplished
“Obviously I was overjoyed that the governor agreed with our position, and after conducting an extensive examination of the facts, agreed that the persecution of the Wilmington Ten resulted from racism, and a misuse of the criminal justice process by the prosecutor down in New Hanover County,” attorney Joyner said. Having reached that conclusion, she was compelled to do what she did.”
But opposition to the pardons of innocence was formidable, Joyner notes.
“[Forty years ago] the Wilmington Ten case drew support from the NC Attorney General’s Office, and they came to the defense of [prosecutor] Jay Stroud and his actions, and the actions of the judge [Robert Martin]…and defended that all the way up through the US Supreme Court, and finally to the [US] Fourth Circuit of Appeals. The individuals who were actively involved in seeking to cover-up those actions, and to justify them legally, were also attorneys in Governor Perdue’s office.”
Attorney Joyner continued, “We were not aware of that at the time that we filed our petition [last May]. But soon after we filed it, we became aware of their presence, and they fought mightily to revive the arguments that they had been making [against us], to no avail.”
Joyner agrees that the subsequent discovery of the Stroud files – the handwritten notes by prosecutor Stroud documenting how he tried to manipulate a predominately-white “KKK and Uncle Tom-type” jury to guarantee a conviction – helped the case immensely.
“The Stroud files were critical, and became the smoking gun about the intentional conduct of the prosecutor,” Joyner said. “It made it hard to argue that we had not presented a compelling case.”
“That’s why it’s more significant that over the advice and direction of the people who were closest to her, [Gov. Perdue] was able to see through the glint and the glam. So there was significant opposition in her office, and also from people in Wilmington – [retired] police officers, firemen…people who were not even there [in 1971] and bought into this public relations campaign that if the Wilmington Ten members did not actually burn Mike’s Grocery, then they knew who did, which was an absurd assertion.
The battle for just compensation may take months. But the satisfaction of being there for the Wilmington Ten for the past forty years, and seeing their justice through to the end, is meaningful to attorney Joyner.
“To give to each of those individuals their pardons was a great joy,” the law professor says, looking back to the certificate ceremony a few weeks ago. “Just to look at the expressions on their faces was just overwhelming.”
‘In your life as a lawyer, you always look for those moments when you can say that my living has not been in vain, and my work has had some significant meaning in the life of someone,” Joyner adds.
“We had a mighty victory, and the Lord has blessed us.”
“We had a mighty victory, and the Lord has blessed us.”