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GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -
Governor Perdue issued a pardon for the notable group the Wilmington Ten on Monday.
Her decision cleared their records of a firebombing during race riots in 1971.
But according to the Office of Executive Clemency site, more than 40 others filed applications for pardons. Seven names are listed under applications for commutation. Brian Keith Tate, 43, is among them.
Tate was convicted of the 1990 rape of a Gaston County woman. He is serving two life sentences plus 24 years for rape, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill.
Doris Elaine Smarr met Tate at the Brown Creek Correctional Facility two years ago. "This case was brought to my attention by a good friend of his," Smarr said. Smarr is the founder of Equal Justice For All People. After hearing Tate's story, researching and doing some investigating of her own, Smarr believes Tate is innocent. She points to conflicting testimony at trial, the lack of physical evidence and says police should've looked at another man. It's all laid out in a 12 page letter she sent two years ago to Governor Bev Perdue.
"What really made me get interested in working locally with citizens is the fact I have a brother, who is now deceased, who was wrongly incarcerated and convicted for a murder he didn't commit. He spent 12 years in prison before he was granted a pardon by the governor of Ohio," Smarr said.
Smarr's group is also dedicated to educate others about the justice system. "Through education of how the justice system really works, it is our hope that many men, women and children will learn how to avoid becoming a victim of our current unjust legal system," reads a pamphlet printed by Smarr's organization.
Governor Perdue spent her last day in office at coastal schools recognizing them for their technology. A call to her office about possible last minute pardons or commutation was unanswered. Smarr says she will have to wait 3 years to file again. "Even if we can only save one, that's one saved."
To learn more about Equal Justice For All People, click here.
Ross Neese also appears on the list for commutation. Neese pleaded guilty to driving drunk in a wreck that killed an 8-year-old China Grove girl in 2006. He was sentenced to 12 years. Patty Burgdoff's family started a petition on Facebook to keep him locked up.