LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - A Florida judge on Monday approved the state's motion to dismiss the convictions of the Groveland Four.
With that, the names of the four African American men are exonerated in a court of law over 70 years after the case began.
A prosecutor filed a motion to clear the names of the men last month in Lake County, aiming to remove the guilty verdicts and indictments from their records.
In 1949, segregationist and Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall used a rape allegation that was riddled with holes to round up four African American men in the town of Groveland: Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas.
Thomas was shot and killed by the sheriff’s posse while the other three were arrested and beaten to force confessions and found guilty. Two were granted a re-trial but were shot by Sheriff McCall as he claimed that the two handcuffed men tried to flee while being transported to the new trial. One of them died while the other was seriously injured.
Long after the four men’s deaths, in 2017, the Florida Legislature issued a posthumous apology. Then, in 2019, the Governor and state cabinet pardoned the men known as the Groveland Four.
The Groveland Four, Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas, were four African-American men from Lake County who were wrongly accused of raping a woman in 1949. One of them was killed shortly after the arrests. The others w
"I don't think there’s any way you can look at this case and think the ideals of justice were satisfied, indeed they were perverted," Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
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In 2020, the Groveland Four were honored with a monument in their names to recognize the miscarriage of justice.
Then, on Nov. 22, 2021, the four were officially exonerated as new evidence was presented in the case. It showed that semen was not found in Walter's pants and that those pants were never presented or tested by prosecutors even though it was a big part of the original convictions.
Family members of the Groveland Four spoke after the hearing on Monday.
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