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Florida governor pardons ‘Groveland Four,’ wrongly convicted of rape in 1949



In 1949, Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas were accused of sexually assaulting Norma Padgett in Groveland, Florida, about 30 miles west of Orlando. The group was called "Groveland Four".

There were doubts about Padgett's testimony from the beginning, but in the Jim Crow era, a jury condemned men without proof of a crime.

Gov. Ron DeSantis gave full posthumous delay to men Friday, 19659002. "For seventy years, these four men have written their story unfairly for crimes they have not committed, as I said before, while it is a long time to wait, it is never too late to do the right thing, "DeSantis said in a statement. "I believe that the rule of law is the sacred bond of society: when it is trampled, we all suffer, for the Groveland Four the truth has been buried, the perpetrators have celebrated, but from that day justice has cried up to this".

The pardons were unanimously approved by the Executive Clemency Board, says a statement from the new governor's office.

The July Night Incident

Padgett claimed that on the night of July 1

6, 1949 his car broke down in Groveland. He said the four men stopped and raped her.

The men were arrested. Three of them were tortured until the police were able to get a confession from two of them.

Thomas, who managed to escape, was killed after a manhunt.

Greenlee was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Shepherd and Irvin received the death penalty. As he was being transported from the county jail for a new trial, the sheriff fired both of them and claimed self-defense.

Pastor died on the scene and Irvin survived by playing death. His sentence was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment.

"Memories can not be erased"

Florida House has issued a posthumous excuse to the Groveland Four in April 2017.

"As a state, we're really sorry," Chris Sprowls replied to families of men, after the legislators voted unanimously to exonerate them.

"Memories can not be erased, the pain they endured can not be resolved, but today we have the opportunity to close these families in the form of excuses," said representative Bobby DuBose, who sponsored the design of the law asking for their forgiveness.

Devon M. Sayers of CNN contributed to this report.


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