Judge clears charges against ‘Groveland Four,’ Black men accused of 1949 rape

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Nov 22 (Reuters) – A Florida choose on Monday posthumously exonerated 4 Black men, referred to as the “Groveland Four,” wrongly accused of raping a white teenager 72 years in the past in the course of the Jim Crow period of Southern U.S. racial segregation.

Lake County Circuit Court Judge Heidi Davis took a ultimate step within the instances of Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Sam Shepherd and Ernest Thomas, the final gunned down by a posse earlier than dealing with trial. The 4 men had been formally and posthumously pardoned in 2019.

Davis put aside the judgments and sentences of Irvin and Greenlee and dismissed the indictments of the opposite two.

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In a movement looking for their exoneration, Florida state lawyer Bill Gladson stated newly uncovered proof referred to as into query whether or not any rape was dedicated and strongly steered that “the sheriff, the judge, and the prosecutor all but ensured guilty verdicts in this case.”

“We followed the evidence to see where it led us and it led us to this moment,” Gladson advised a news convention on Monday.

Widespread curiosity within the Groveland Four was renewed in 2012 by Gilbert King’s Pulitzer Prize-winning e-book, “Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America.”

Days after the 4 had been accused of abducting and sexually assaulting a 17-year-old woman in 1949 close to Groveland, Florida, Thomas was hunted down by a posse of over 1,000 men and shot 400 occasions.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1951 unanimously overturned the convictions of Shepherd and Irvin, who had been defended by National Association for the Advancement of Colored People lawyer Thurgood Marshall, who later grew to become the primary Black U.S. Supreme Court justice.

That similar yr, Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall shot the 2 men, killing Shepherd, as he transported them to a pretrial listening to. McCall alleged they had been making an attempt to flee.

Irvin was retried and convicted once more. He was paroled in 1968 and located lifeless a yr later underneath suspicious circumstances.

Greenlee, paroled within the early Sixties, died in 2012.

The lady who accused the men of raping her when she was 17 opposed the pardons in 2019, saying she was not a liar.

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Reporting by Julia Harte; Editing by Donna Bryson and Peter Cooney

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