Court nixes Wilmington 10 compensation


RALEIGH (AP) — A North Carolina court ruled Tuesday that the relatives of four of the 10 people wrongfully convicted in a notorious 1970s firebombing case aren’t entitled to state compensation.

Relatives of four of the so-called Wilmington 10 who were posthumously pardoned had sought compensation after the six surviving men shared $1.1 million that the state awarded them. But the court ruled that only the survivors would be entitled to those payments.

The ruling by a three-judge state Court of Appeals panel means relatives of Jerry Jacobs, Ann Shephard, Connie Tindall and Joe Wright won’t receive payments from North Carolina.

All 10 were pardoned in 2012 for the 1971 firebombing of a Wilmington grocery store during three days of violence that included the shooting of a black teenager by police. Their sentences were commuted in 1978 and a federal appeals court found gross prosecutorial misconduct at their trial.

The three-judge panel ruled unanimously, meaning there is no automatic appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The decision upholds a state Industrial Commission decision last year that awarded compensation totaling $1.1 million to the six surviving group members and denying the families of the four who died.

“Although both the State and this Court solemnly acknowledge the profound harm caused by the wrongful imprisonment of any person, we affirm the Full Commission’s order,” Judge Lucy Inman wrote, “because the statute does not allow compensation based upon posthumous pardons of innocence.”

The six people receiving state compensation include Benjamin Chavis, who became executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1993 but was fired the following year after admitting to using NAACP funds to settle a sexual discrimination case against him.

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