Revelations about former Assistant New Hanover County District Attorney James "Jay" Stroud Jr.'s racial jury gerrymandering, and his plot to cause a mistrial to impanel a "KKK" type jury in the Wilmington Ten case forty years ago were "stunning and beyond outrage," say two veteran civil rights attorneys.
Those facts alone, they add, justify individual pardons of innocence from NC Gov. Beverly Perdue for the Wilmington Ten.
"It is stunning, and beyond outrage, to learn the level of prosecutorial abuse that dominated, infected, and ultimately drove the outcome in the Wilmington Ten trials," says Prof. Gene R. Nichol, Boyd Tinsley Distinguished professor at the UNC School of Law at UNC – Chapel Hill, after reviewing portions of what is now known as "the Stroud files."
"This intense abuse of governmental authority, prosecutorial misconduct — both professional and racial — casts a long shadow over the North Carolina system of justice, Prof. Nichol continued. "It also, of course, worked massive and unforgivable constitutional injury on the lives of ten North Carolinians."
"The prosecutor made mockery of his high office by knowingly, intentionally, and purposefully placing perjured testimony at the heart of the trial. It is also clear now, in ways not demonstrated by documentary evidence before, that he tainted the trial initiation process and vital jury selection through patent, overt, and outcome-determinative racism."
"It is crucial that North Carolina act to admit and concede such a potent and defining abuse of power," Prof. Nichol maintains. "To allow public servants to behave in such a fashion, without remedy, is literally intolerable."
Al McSurely, a veteran Chapel Hill civil rights attorney and NCNAACP Executive Committee member, also expressed his "outrage."
"The prosecutor's notes are clear and convincing evidence that race was not just a factor in his selection of the ten whites and two blacks on the Pender jury that convicted the Wilmington Ten," attorney McSurely said. "Race was the only factor. Forty years later, we know his real motives. I believe when the governor studies this evidence, she will do the right thing and sign the pardons."
"I can barely contain my outrage at the blatant racism of an officer of the court," attorney McSurely added.
This stinging legal analysis comes after the fortieth anniversary of the convictions of the ten civil rights activists for crimes they maintain they did not commit.
On Oct. 17th, 1972, nine young black males and one white female – all led by the Rev. Benjamin Chavis of the United Church of Christ – were falsely convicted during their second trial of conspiracy in connection with racial violence that gripped Wilmington in February 1971.
The Stroud files now cast a large shadow over those convictions.
Meanwhile, the North Carolina chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference announced in Greenville last week that it was formally supporting the pardons of innocence effort for the Wilmington Ten.