'Groveland Four' Posthumously Pardoned

Jan 11, 2019
Originally published on January 14, 2019 3:51 pm

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the independently elected Cabinet granted a pardon to four African-American men accused of raping a white woman almost 70 years ago.

DeSantis announced the posthumous pardons Friday for the men known as the Groveland Four.

"Today we have taken action to pardon the Groveland Four. While this act cannot right the wrongs done to them many years ago, I hope that it will bring peace to their families and their communities," said DeSantis. "I am confident that the people of Florida would not want this injustice to happen again."

The Lake County men were accused of the 1949 rape under dubious circumstances. One was hunted down by a posse of about 1,000 men and shot more than 400 times.

Three others were convicted. After the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a new trial in 1951, a sheriff shot two of them, claiming the handcuffed men were trying to escape. One died.

The two surviving men were eventually paroled.

In 2017, the House and Senate voted unanimously to formally apologize to the men’s families and asked then-Gov. Scott to pardon them. He took no action.

DeSantis replaced Scott as governor on Tuesday.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried released a statement:

“Today’s action marks progress and resolution on an undeniable injustice of the past—I’m proud of my colleagues and thankful for everyone who has worked so hard to help correct this disgrace. And although the action taken today can never fully revise this dark chapter of Florida’s past, it’s my hope that the families of Charles Greenlee, Earnest Thomas, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin can accept this pardon as a sincere attempt to set the record of history straight. I look forward to working with the Clemency Board and the FDLE to ensure a full proclamation of exoneration is obtained to clear the names of each of the Groveland Four.”

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