4 Black males exonerated greater than 70 years after being wrongly accused of raping a White youngster woman
Circuit Court Judge Heidi Davis in Lake County, Florida, granted the State’s movement to posthumously brush aside the indictments of Ernest Thomas and Samuel Shepherd and vacated the convictions of Charles Greenlee and Walter Irvin, within the case referred to as the “Groveland Four.”
“I would not hate, but I will love and embrace all of those who did not know at the time that my father was a caring and loving and compassionate person that did not rape anybody. I stand here today to say thank you,” mentioned an emotional Carol Greenlee, daughter of Charles Greenlee, in entrance of cameras at a press convention Monday morning following the court docket listening to.
In 1949, Greenlee, Irvin, Shepherd and Thomas have been accused of sexually assaulting Norma Padgett in Groveland, Florida, about 30 miles west of Orlando. The staff got here to be known as the “Groveland Four.” The case was once regarded as one of the crucial biggest miscarriages of justice in Jim Crow-era Florida.
There have been doubts about Padgett’s testimony from the onset, however within the period of Jim Crow, a jury convicted the lads with out proof of a criminal offense.
“For 72 years the families have been living with this and traveling with this journey waiting for today,” mentioned Bill Gladson, the state lawyer, after Monday’s listening to. Gladson, a Republican, moved ultimate month to have the lads formally exonerated. None of the lads are nonetheless alive.
Gladson mentioned the state sought justice after they learned there was once new proof.
“Once we found that evidence, and it revealed what it revealed, that resulted in the motion that you saw today,” he mentioned.
State Sen. Randolph Bracy, a Democrat, mentioned whilst the exoneration does no longer “fix the racial injustice that is so pervasive in our criminal justice system,” the movement gave the circle of relatives some closure and gives some hope.
“I believe reckoning with the past and correcting gross injustice does put us on a path to creating a fairer more equal court system,” he mentioned.
In 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued complete posthumous pardons to the lads.
“For seventy years, these four men have had their history wrongly written for crimes they did not commit. As I have said before, while that is a long time to wait, it is never too late to do the right thing,” DeSantis mentioned within the commentary on the time. “I believe the rule of law is society’s sacred bond. When it is trampled, we all suffer. For the Groveland Four, the truth was buried. The Perpetrators celebrated. But justice has cried out from that day until this.”
The Florida House issued a posthumous apology to the Groveland Four in April 2017.
“As a state, we’re truly sorry,” Rep. Chris Sprowls mentioned to the lads’s households, after lawmakers unanimously voted to exonerate them.
“The memories can’t be erased, the pain they’ve endured can’t be fixed but today we have an opportunity to provide closure to these families in the form of an apology,” Rep. Bobby DuBose, who backed the invoice that known as for his or her pardon.
A a long time lengthy bankruptcy of injustice after all closed
Padgett claimed that at the evening of July 16, 1949, her automotive broke down in Groveland. She mentioned the 4 males stopped and raped her. The males have been arrested. Three of them have been tortured till police have been in a position to elicit a confession from two of them. Thomas, who controlled to flee custody, was once killed after a manhunt. Greenlee was once sentenced to existence in jail.
Shepherd and Irvin gained the dying penalty. While being transported from county prison for a retrial, the sheriff shot them each and claimed self-defense. Shepherd died on the scene and Irvin survived via enjoying lifeless. His sentence was once later commuted to existence in jail.
“We need courage,” Aaron Newson, Ernst Thomas’ nephew, mentioned preventing off tears in entrance of cameras as of late following the court docket listening to. “A lot of families did not get this opportunity, maybe they will. Maybe this is the start of something good. I hope so. This country needs to come together.”
CNN’s Dianne Gallagher contributed to this record.
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