After more than 70 years, 4 Black men wrongly accused of rape have been exonerated

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The men, known as the Groveland Four, were accused of raping a white woman in 1949. Their families said maybe the case will spark a reexamination of similar convictions from the Jim Crow era.
After more than 70 years, 4 Black men wrongly accused of rape have been exonerated

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A judge on Monday officially exonerated four young African American men of the false accusation that they raped a white woman seven decades ago, making partial and belated amends for one of the greatest miscarriages of justice of Florida's Jim Crow era.

At the request of the local prosecutor, Administrative Judge Heidi Davis dismissed the indictments of Ernest Thomas and Samuel Shepherd, who were fatally shot by law enforcement, and set aside the convictions and sentences of Charles Greenlee and Walter Irvin. The men known as the Groveland Four, who ranged from 16 to 26 at the time, were accused of raping a woman in the central Florida town of Groveland in 1949.

"We followed the evidence to see where it led us and it led us to this moment," said Bill Gladson, the local state attorney, following the hearing in the same Lake County courthouse where the original trials were held. Gladson, a Republican, moved last month to have the men officially exonerated.

The men's families said maybe this case will spark a reexamination of other convictions of Black men and women from the Jim Crow era so those falsely convicted can have their names cleared.

"We are blessed. I hope that this is a start because lot of people didn't get this opportunity. A lot of families didn't get this opportunity. Maybe they will," said Aaron Newson, Thomas' nephew. He broke into tears as he spoke. "This country needs to come together."

Thomas was killed by a posse that shot him more than 400…
The Associated Press
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