Editorial: Messages from the governor and the DA

Jan. 04, 2013 @ 06:16 PM

On the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation this week, Gov. Beverly Perdue issued a pardon of innocence for the Wilmington 10.

The group included Rev. Benjamin Chavis of Oxford, a civil rights activist and one of nine black men in the group that also included a white woman. They were wrongly convicted 40 years ago, accused of firebombing a Wilmington grocery store after police shot a black teenager.

Perdue’s action represents the state, and means it believes they did not commit a crime.

Their sentences of nearly 300 years in prison were commuted by Gov. Jim Hunt in 1978, but without pardon. Convictions were thrown out by an appeals court.

We agree with Perdue’s statement: “The legitimacy of our criminal justice system hinges on it operating in a fair and equitable manner with justice being dispensed based on innocence or guilt — not based on race or other forms of prejudice.”

• District Attorney Sam Currin recently delivered a strong message twice.

His office chose not to prosecute a homeowner who shot an intruder on Dec. 16 in Henderson. In a Warren County shooting death this week, Currin’s office chose not to prosecute when an argument among family members escalated into a shooting death.

In both cases, Currin said the shooters were acting in self defense and defense of others.

Currin’s message resonates in part because of recent state and national events. Following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., gun advocates not surprisingly said more guns could help such situations. A year ago in our state, carrying guns at state parks by concealed carry permit holders became permissible. Advocates said it was a benefit to the protection of others as well.

• Aaron Alonzo Santos was the first baby born at Maria Parham Medical Center, and we’ve had a number of stories in The Dispatch saluting or waving good-bye to 2012.

We’re not done with the change of years. Annually, we wait for the year to be fully done, and then bring our “Year in Review” special section. It will be available in our office and in racks on Wednesday.

Inside, we’ll share stories related to the Tri-County area, including sports, which made 2012 interesting and important.