Groveland Four exonerated 70 years after false rape accusation in Florida
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Four young Black men were accused in one of the greatest miscarriages of justice of the Jim Crow era
A judge on Monday officially exonerated the Groveland Four of the false accusation that the young Black men raped a white woman 70 years ago, partial and belated amends for one of the greatest miscarriages of justice of the Jim Crow era in Florida.

At the request of a 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 four, who ranged in age from 16 to 26, 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, after the hearing in the courthouse where the original trials were held. Gladson, a Republican, moved last month to have the men officially exonerated.

The men's families hoped the case might spark a re-examination of other convictions from the Jim Crow era.

"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's nephew, breaking into tears as he spoke.

"This country needs to come together."

Thomas was killed by a posse that shot him more than 400 times. The local sheriff, Willis McCall, fatally shot Shepherd and wounded Irvin in 1951 as he drove…
Guardian staff reporter
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