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Black Men Accused in 1949 Rape Get Pardon

The case of the Groveland Four is now seen as a blight on Florida's history
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 11, 2019 2:05 PM CST
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says the ideals of justice were "perverted time and time again" in the case of the Groveland Four.   (Dan Wagner/Sarasota Herald-Tribune via AP, File)

(Newser) – After a dramatic, hour-long meeting that recalled events from nearly seven decades ago, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state's three-member Cabinet granted posthumous pardons Friday to four African-American men, known as the Groveland Four, accused of raping a white woman in a 1949 case now seen as a racial injustice and a blight on Florida’s history, the AP reports. The families of the men accused of the assault told DeSantis and the Cabinet—meeting as the clemency board—that there is overwhelming evidence the men were innocent and there was no rape. The woman who was 17 when she said she was raped, sat in a wheelchair and later told the board the rape did indeed happen, saying she was dragged from a car, had a gun put to her head, and was told not to scream or they would "blow your brains out."

At one point, the two sides briefly clashed. Beverly Robinson, a niece of one of the Groveland Four, was speaking to the governor and the Cabinet when she turned to the woman and her sons. "It never happened. You all are liars," Robinson said. "That's enough out of you," the woman said. "I know it's enough out of me. It's always enough when you're telling the truth," Robinson replied. The pardon comes some two years after the state House and Senate voted to formally apologize to relatives of the Groveland Four, which included Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, and Samuel Shepherd, who were convicted by an all-white jury, and Ernest Thomas, who was hunted down by a riotous mob and shot numerous times. Previously, former Gov. Rick Scott declined the legislature’s request to pardon the men.

(Read more Florida stories.)

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