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Intersection: Pardoning the Groveland Four

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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

There’s renewed, bipartisan support for pardoning four black men who were falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1949.

The Groveland Four were Earnest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin.

Thomas fled soon after the allegations were made, and was later shot dead by law enforcement. Greenlee was sentenced to life in prison, and Shepherd and Irvin were sentenced to death, but the US Supreme Court threw out Shepherd and Irvin’s convictions.

A retrial was ordered, and Shepherd and Irvin were being transported back to Lake County by sheriff Willis McCall when he shot both men, Shepherd fatally. McCall claimed the two tried to overpower him after he stopped to check a tire, but Irvin said the sheriff shot them in cold blood and later bragged on the police radio that he’d “got rid of them”.

FloridaPolitics.com reporter Scott Powers joined Intersection for a conversation about the importance of a pardon.

“Ultimately what we’re talking about here is the state of Florida acknowledging and dealing with some of the really ugly chapters that did occur during the racist Jim crow era,” said Powers.

Powers said he spoke with the granddaughter of Charles Greenlee –Carol Greenlee– after she heard news that the clemency board would review her grandfather’s case.

“She was just besides herself with joy that this pardon was finally going to appear on the agenda,” said Powers.

Click above to listen to the full segment.

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About Emily Lang

Emily Lang