70 Years After They Were Wrongly Imprisoned, the Groveland Four Have Been Pardoned

|||Everett Collection/NewscomEverett Collection/NewscomNearly 70 years ago, four black men in Lake County, Florida, were accused and convicted of raping a white woman. Today, Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Earnest Thomas have received posthumous pardons from the state.

The men, commonly referred to as the “Groveland Four,” were accused of raping a 17-year-old in 1949. Greenlee, Irvin, and Shepherd were beaten into confessing after their arrest. According to the Innocence Project, documents from the case revealed that there was no evidence of a sexual assault. In addition to the documents, no physical evidence of the men’s involvement was presented in court, including a medical examination of the accuser.

After the first trial, Greenlee received a life sentence while the others were sentenced to death. A mob of 1,000 men hunted down Thomas and shot him over 400 times. The arrests also prompted white residents to commit violent acts against a black neighborhood, including burning down houses and shooting guns into homes of black residents.

Thurgood Marshall, who was with the NAACP at the time and would eventually become the first black Supreme Court justice, secured new trials on appeal for Irvin and Shepherd. While being transported for the second trial, Irvin and Shepherd were shot after Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall said they attempted to escape. Irvin survived and disputed McCall’s account, telling the FBI he was shot without provocation. He survived despite being denied an ambulance ride because of his skin color. Shepherd died of his injuries. McCall, meanwhile, was re-elected five times after the incident.

A former FBI agent who testified on Irvin’s behalf said prosecutors manufactured evidence. Despite this, Irvin was convicted a second time for the rape.

Both Greenlee and Irvin were eventually paroled. Greenlee, who was paroled in 1960, died in 2012. Irvin, who was paroled in 1968, was found dead in his car in 1969.

In 2017, the Florida legislature passed a measure that formally apologized to the Groveland Four and asked former Gov.

You can read the rest of this article at: https://reason.com/blog/2019/01/11/groveland-four-pardoned-after-70-years