Florida pardons 4 ac­cused in 1949 rape

Hartford Courant - - World&nation - By Bren­dan Farrington As­so­ci­ated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSan­tis and the in­de­pen­dently elected three-mem­ber Cab­i­net granted a par­don to four African-Amer­i­can men ac­cused of rap­ing a white woman nearly 70 years ago.

The post­hu­mous pardons were granted Fri­day for the men — Charles Green­lee, Wal­ter Irvin, Sa­muel Shep­herd and Ernest Thomas — known as the Grov­e­land Four.

The Lake County men were ac­cused of the 1949 rape un­der du­bi­ous cir­cum­stances. Three of the men were ar­rested and se­verely beaten; Thomas, fled. He was hunted down by a posse of about 1,000 men and shot more than 400 times.

The oth­ers were convicted.

Af­ter the U.S. Supreme Court or­dered a new trial in 1951, a sher­iff shot Irvin and Shep­herd, claim­ing the hand­cuffed men were try­ing to es­cape. Shep­herd died.

Irvin was paroled in 1968 and found dead in his car while re­turn­ing to Lake County for a fu­neral a year later. Green­lee was paroled in 1960 and died in 2012.

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

The case is con­sid­ered a blight on Florida’s his­tory.

The fam­i­lies of the men ac­cused of the as­sault told DeSan­tis and the Cab­i­net — meet­ing as the clemency board — that there is over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence the men were in­no­cent and there was no rape.

The woman who was 17 when she said she was raped, sat in a wheel­chair and later told DeSan­tis and the Cab­i­net the rape hap­pened, say­ing she was dragged from a car, had a gun put to her head and was told not to scream or they would “blow your brains out.”

TORI SCH­NEI­DER/TALLAHASSEE DEMO­CRAT

Carol Green­lee, daugh­ter of Charles Green­lee, hugs Rep. Bobby Dubose af­ter her fa­ther was par­doned Fri­day.

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