Groveland Four

Four African-American men who were accused of raping a 17-year-old white girl in 1949
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The Groveland Four (or the Groveland Boys) were four young African-American men, Ernest Thomas, Charles Greenlee (then a minor at age 16), Samuel Shepherd, and Walter Irvin, who in 1949 were accused of raping 17-year-old Norma Padgett and assaulting her husband on July 16, 1949, in Lake County, Florida. Ernest Thomas fled and was killed by a sheriff's posse on July 26, 1949, in South Madison County between Moseley Hill and Greenville; Greenlee, Shepherd, and Irvin were arrested. They were beaten to coerce confessions, but Irvin refused to confess. The three survivors were convicted at trial by an all-white jury. Greenlee was sentenced to life because he was only 16 at the time of the crime; the other two were sentenced to death. In 1951, the United States Supreme Court ordered a retrial after hearing appeals by Shepherd and Irvin, led by Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. It ruled they had not received a fair trial because of excessive adverse publicity and because blacks had been excluded from the jury. In 1949, Harry T. Moore, the executive director of the Florida NAACP, organized a campaign against the wrongful conviction of the three African Americans. Two years later, the case of two defendants reached the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal, with Thurgood Marshall as their defense counsel. The court overturned the convictions and remanded the case to the lower court for a new trial. In November 1951, Sheriff Willis V. McCall of Lake County, Florida, shot Irvin and Shepherd while they were in his custody, killing Shepherd and seriously wounding Irvin. It was alleged they had tried to escape while he was transporting them from Raiford State Prison back to the county seat of Tavares, Florida, for the new trial. Shepherd died on the spot; Irvin survived his wounds and later told FBI investigators that the sheriff had shot them in cold blood and that his deputy, Yates, had also shot him in an attempt to kill him.. Moore called for the governor to suspend McCall. On Christmas night 1951, a bomb went off below Moore's house, fatally wounding both him and his wife; he died that night and his wife followed nine days later. At the second trial, Irvin was represented by Thurgood Marshall, special counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Irvin was convicted again by an all-white jury and sentenced to death. In 1955, his sentence was commuted to life by recently-elected Governor LeRoy Collins. In 1968 he was paroled, but died the next year in Lake County, purportedly from natural causes. Greenlee had been paroled in 1962 and lived with his family until he died in 2012. In 2016, the City of Groveland and Lake County each apologized to survivors of the four men for the injustice against them. The four were posthumously exonerated on April 18, 2017, by a resolution of the Florida House of Representatives. The state senate quickly passed a similar resolution, and lawmakers called on Florida Governor Rick Scott to officially pardon the men. On January 11, 2019, the Florida Board of Executive Clemency voted to pardon the Groveland Four. Governor Ron DeSantis subsequently did so.
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Sam Shepherd (Groveland Four)
Ernest Thomas (Groveland Four)
Groveland Boys
Groveland Case
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