Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Florida Court officially clears Groveland Four of 1949 rape allegations

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The men – Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas – were accused of raping 17-year-old Norma Padgett in what sparked a series of racial violence against black men in Groveland, central Florida, in 1949.

Nov. 22 (News) – A Florida district court on Monday officially acquitted four black men – known as the “Groveland Four” – who were accused of raping a white woman and assaulting her husband more than seven decades ago.

An angry mob killed Thomas, and the other three were convicted by all-white juries in a case that caught the attention of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as a lawyer. They have since died too.

Her case received renewed attention when author Gilbert King drew attention to unpublished documents in his re-investigation into the case for his 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Devil in the Grove.

Lake County District Attorney Bill Gladson has officially reopened the case, ruling that the alleged rape did not take place.

“Officials disguised as peace keepers and dressed as attorneys-at-law have disregarded their oaths and started a series of events that forever destroyed these men, their families and a community,” Gladson wrote in his motion to NBC- News.

“I haven’t seen a major breakdown in the criminal justice system.”

Padgett, now in her 80s, has not spoken publicly about the case in years. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an official pardon for the men in 2019, but Monday erased their records by formally dismissing the charges.

“I will not hate, but I will love and hug all those who did not know at the time that my father was a caring, loving, compassionate person who did not rap anyone,” said Carol Greenlee, daughter of Charles Greenlee WESH TV.

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