Black Men Accused of Rape in 1949 Were Posthumously Pardoned in Florida

Black Men Accused of Rape in 1949 Were Posthumously Pardoned in Florida

Florida's clemency board met to hear from the families of the accused, known as the Groveland Four, on their stories of imprisonment, torture and murder. Contradicting Padgett's version of events are several key pieces of evidence, including that a medical examiner found no physical signs that she was sexually violated or otherwise brutalized - no bruising, skin breaks or tears, or indication that she was penetrated; that one of the accused, 16-year-old Charles Greenlee, was already in police custody pending an unrelated charge when the crime was alleged to have taken place; and that Greenlee and another man, Samuel Shepherd, confessed only after being severely beaten by the police. All three were convicted regardless.

Carol Greenlee, daughter of Charles Greenlee, one of the four men in the Groveland Four, hugs Representative Bobby Dubose, after her father was pardoned.

"For seventy years, these four men have had their history wrongly written for crimes they did not commit", the newly installed governor said.

"Make no mistake, these men were victims", DeSantis said last month.

"I think it says a lot about them that they're willing to look back at this and acknowledge that this was not right", DeSantis said. "I would like to thank CFO Patronis, Attorney General Moody and Agriculture Commissioner Fried for their support".

But all four cabinet members were believed keen to push the process forward and the pardons were duly announced.

The Groveland Four were a centerpiece of the book Devil in the Grove, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and helped bring their story into the national spotlight. In addition to the documents, no physical evidence of the men's involvement was presented in court, including a medical examination of the accuser. They insisted that Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin, both 22 and army veterans from the second world war, together with Ernest Thomas, 26, and Charles Greenlee, 16, confronted them, robbed Padgett of his wallet and took his wife off in their auto, raping her on the back seat. While being transported from county jail for a retrial, the sheriff shot them both and claimed self-defense.

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Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin and Samuel Shepherd were convicted despite dubious evidence.

Thomas escaped after hearing his friend Greenlee had been arrested. Thomas was shot dead before being either charged or tried.

McCall's involvement did not end with Thomas's killing.

Thurgood Marshall, later the first African-American justice on the US Supreme Court, took up Irvin and Shepherd's appeals for the NAACP, and in 1951 the US Supreme Court ordered new trials. He stopped his auto on a remote road and shot the pair, who were handcuffed together. Shepherd died. Irvin was shot in the neck and survived despite an ambulance refusing to transport him because he was black.

DeSantis also praised current Lake County officials who urged the pardon.

Irvin was convicted and sentenced to death at his second trial before his sentence was commuted to life in 1955. He died in 1969, just one year after being released on parole. He died in 2012.

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