RALEIGH -- Gov. Bev Perdue issued pardons for the Wilmington 10, a group wrongly convicted in a Civil Rights-era case, Monday afternoon.
Perdue issued a pardon of innocence Monday for the nine black men and one white woman sentenced to a combined almost 300 years in prison for the 1971 firebombing of a Wilmington grocery store. The bombing came after police shot a black teenager.
Perdue's pardon means the state no longer thinks the Wilmington 10 committed the crime.
The case's three key witnesses later recanted their testimonies. Amnesty International and other groups took up the issue, portraying the Wilmington 10 as political prisoners.
"In evaluating these petitions for clemency, it is important to separate fact from rumor and innuendo," said Perdue in an afternoon release. "I have decided to grant these pardons because the more facts I have learned about the Wilmington Ten, the more appalled I have become about the manner in which their convictions were obtained."
Perdue also called the court and law enforcement's conduct in the case "disgraceful," saying it goes against the values North Carolina is built upon.
Click here to read the governor's full statement on the pardon.
Governor's Office, The Associated Press