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State Attorney in Lake County files motion to erase the indictments and convictions of 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


The State Attorney’s Office in Lake County is seeking to formally clear the names of the Groveland Four, young Black men who were wrongly prosecuted for raping a white woman in 1949.

In recent years the Legislature issued an apology and the governor pardoned the men posthumously.

Fifth Circuit State Attorney Bill Gladson filed a motion this week to dismiss the indictments of Ernest Thomas and Samuel Shepherd and set aside the convictions of Charles Greenlee, who was only 16 at the time, and Walter Irvin.

The filing describes a crooked court system and sheriff — the notorious Willis McCall — that destroyed the young men, their families and a community.

Tavares activist and Pastor Mike Watkins says the dismissal of the charges is only right.

“It’s one of those things that’s been a long time coming,” he said. “All of those men are dead. But their families have a lot of pride, and certainly want, for their family’s name’s sake, for things to be corrected.”

Greenlee’s daughter, Carol Greenlee, issued a statement saying she hopes the motion will bring the men “full justice.”

Circuit Judge Heidi Davis will consider the motion.


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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes

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Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.

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