Four Black men who were accused of raping a White woman in 1949 was posthumously pardoned Friday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Families of the men called the Groveland Four told the governor and Florida’s three-member Cabinet that evidence proved there was no rape. One of the men, Ernest Thomas, was killed before he could be charged and the others, Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin
Their accuser was at the clemency meeting and told DeSantis that she was raped, dragged from a car and told not to scream while a gun was held to her head or the men would “blow your brains out.”
Beverly Robinson, a niece of one of the men, got into a verbal altercation with the woman and her family, saying, “It never happened. You all are liars.”
“That’s enough out of you,” said the woman. “I know it’s enough out of me. It’s always enough when you’re telling the truth,” Robinson replied.
Two years ago, Florida’s House and Senate voted to apologize to the families of the men and asked the state’s former governor, Rick Scott, now a U.S. senator, to pardon them.
According to NBC News, DeSantis said the pardon was a priority for him. “I don’t know that there’s any way you can look at this case and think that those ideals of justice were satisfied. Indeed, they were perverted time and time again, and I think the way this was carried out was a miscarriage of justice,” he said.
Greenlee, Irvin and Shepherd were reportedly arrested and beaten, while Thomas, who fled and was hunted by 1,000 men, was shot 400 times when he was found sleeping underneath a tree.
Evidence such as a doctor determining that the then-17-year-old was not raped was not presented at the trial, NBC News reported. Irvin and Shepherd were given the death penalty, while Greenlee was given life in prison.
Click here to read more about the Groveland Four’s story.
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Teddy is a multimedia journalist who serves as the culture and political writer for EBONY. His work has appeared in NBC's Owned and Operated stations, as well as DNAInfo, which covered local neighborhood news in New York City. He received his Masters in Journalism from the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY in 2017.