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Exoneration for the Groveland Four? State Leaders Call on DeSantis to Sign Order

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From left, Walter Irvin, Charles Greenlee, and Samuel Shepherd were wrongfully prosecuted for rape in 1949. A fourth man, Ernest Thomas, was killed during a manhunt before he could be arrested. Photo: Gary Corsair

State leaders are calling on the DeSantis administration to exonerate four black men accused of raping a white woman in Lake County in 1949. 

The leaders will demonstrate Tuesday in Tallahassee with family members of the Groveland Four. 

The DeSantis administration pardoned the men earlier this year. 

But family members, along with Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, State Senator Gary Farmer and State Representative Geraldine Thompson say only exoneration fully acknowledges their innocence.

Commissioner Fried who is on the Clemency Board says exoneration is the only way to fully acknowledge the men’s innocence. 

“And a pardon is saying almost like you have been forgiven for the acts that you were convicted of. But an exoneration says you should have never been convicted or charged to begin with.”

State Representative Thompson says exonerating the men would set a precedent for criminal justice reform in the state. 

“It would mean that we are committed to righting a wrong, we’re committed to justice, and we’re committed to racial reconciliation.”

The Florida Legislature voted in 2017 to formally apologize to the surviving families of the Groveland Four.

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

Reporter & Fill-in Host

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter at WMFE. You can hear her reporting on a daily basis on the station. She also fills-in as a host during the morning and afternoon drive times. Her reporting has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and Vox. Danielle is originally from Rochester Hills, ... Read Full Bio »