Grov­e­land Four par­doned after 70 years

Lodi News-Sentinel - - LOCAL/NATION - By Saman­tha J. Gross

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — After nearly 70 years, all mem­bers of the Grov­e­land Four — four young black men falsely ac­cused of rap­ing a white woman in Lake County, Fla. — were par­doned by a unan­i­mous vote Fri­day

The Florida Cabi­net met for the first time as the state Clemency Board Fri­day, where they heard from fam­ily mem­bers of the men who were ei­ther im­pris­oned, tor­tured or mur­dered by mobs and a racist sher­iff. The Grov­e­land Four mat­ter was only sup­posed to be up for dis­cus­sion and fam­i­lies were not ex­pect­ing to hear a vote Fri­day. But at the very end of the meet­ing, Gov. Ron DeSan­tis called for a vote.

“I be­lieve in the prin­ci­ples of the Con­sti­tu­tion. I be­lieve in get­ting a fair shake,” he said. “I don’t think there any way that you can look at this case and see jus­tice was car­ried out.”

Sa­muel Shep­herd's cousin Bev­erly Robin­son, turned to the accuser, Norma Pad­gett, and called her a liar.

“It never hap­pened, Miss Pad­gett,” she said. “You and your fam­ily are liars.”

Pad­gett, who sat sur­rounded by fam­ily in the front row, was wheeled to a mi­cro­phone.

“I'm the vic­tim of that night. I tell you now, that it's been on my mind for 70 years. I was 17 years old and it's never left my mind,” she said, her sons stand­ing be­hind her. “I'm beg­ging y'all not to give the par­dons be­cause they did it. If you do, you're go­ing to be just like them.”

The Grov­e­land Four's story be­came the fo­cus of a 2013 Pulitzer Prize-win­ning book about the case, “Devil in the Grove.” The au­thor of the book, Gil­bert King, tes­ti­fied in front of the board.

Wade Green­lee, the younger brother of Charles, trav­eled to Tallahassee from Jack­sonville for the hear­ing. So did Thomas and Carol Green­lee, two of Charles' chil­dren.

“He was clearly con­victed by a per­son who just said he did it. The cli­mate of those times — that's all they need,” Thomas Green­lee said in front of the board. “He wasn't there for birth­days. He wasn't there to help with home­work. He just was not there. You put some­one into a sit­u­a­tion where you not only af­fect him, but the whole fam­ily.”

Carol Green­lee men­tioned that when used to ask her father about the trial, he al­ways said he didn't even know the other men he was brought into the court­room with

“The ev­i­dence was in the record,” she said. “He was ac­cused, put in jail and tor­tured.”

DeSan­tis, who spoke about the vote at a press con­fer­ence be­fore the cabi­net meet­ing, called the en­tire sit­u­a­tion a “per­ver­sion of jus­tice.”

In 2017, the Florida Leg­is­la­ture unan­i­mously passed a bill ask­ing for­mer Gov. Rick Scott to go ahead and par­don them.

He re­fused and never an­swered ques­tions as to why.

“The thing is, when you're look­ing at these is­sues of par­dons, you still have to have good jus­tice even if some­one wasn't in­no­cent,” DeSan­tis said. “To me, I look at how this whole thing went and I think that when the leg­is­la­ture passed the res­o­lu­tion in 2017, they were right — this was a mis­car­riage of jus­tice.”

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