Florida cleared the Groveland No. 4 case of rape of white women in 1949

Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Associated Press) – On Monday, a judge formally acquitted four young African-American men who accused them of raping a white woman seven years ago, the biggest for Jim in Florida. One of the misjudgments made partial and late compensation. The age of crows.

At the request of the local prosecutor, Administrative Judge Heidi Davis dismissed the prosecutions of Ernest Thomas and Samuel Shepard who were shot by law enforcement, and dismissed Charles Greenley and Walter Owen. Conviction and sentence. The men known as the Groveland Quad were between the ages of 16 and 26, and they were accused of raping a woman in Groveland in central Florida in 1949.

“We followed the evidence to see where it led us, and it led us to this moment,” the local state prosecutor Bill Gladson said after a hearing in the Lake County Court where the original trial was held. The Republican Gladson took action last month and officially declared these people not guilty.

The man’s family said that perhaps this case will trigger a re-examination of other convictions of black men and women in the Jim Crow era so that those who have been wrongly convicted can be innocent.

“We are blessed. I hope this is the beginning, because many people did not get this opportunity. Many families did not get this opportunity. Maybe they will,” Thomas’ nephew Aaron Newson said. He burst into tears when he spoke. “This country needs to unite.”

Soon after the rape allegations, Thomas was shot and killed more than 400 times by a gang. In 1951, the local sheriff Willis McCall (Willis McCall) drove them to a second trial after the Supreme Court of the United States overturned their original verdict, saying that he had shot and killed them without providing any evidence. Shepard and injured Owen. The sheriff claimed that the men tried to escape, but Owen said McCall and his deputy shot them coldly.

Gilbert King won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2012 book “Devil in the Jungle: Thurgood Marshall, Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of New America” ​​on the case. He and Thurgood Jr. Marshall’s son attended the hearing together. The late Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Thurgood Marshall Sr. (Thurgood Marshall Sr.) was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and represented Owen in Owen’s second trial, but the all-white jury again convicted him and sentenced him to death. In 1954, Owen nearly escaped execution, and Governor LeRoy Collins commuted his sentence to life imprisonment and released him on parole. Greenlee was also sentenced to life imprisonment, was released on parole in 1962, and died in 2012. Owen died in 1969, a year after he was released on parole.

King said that it is important that these people be acquitted in the same building where the trial was conducted, “because there is a court upstairs, where the abominable justice happened 72 years ago.” He praised Gladson. Pursue justice.

“He could have easily pushed this case aside and let others handle it,” Jin said. “Even when things get frustrating and he feels that there is no way to this day, he digs harder.”

Little Marshall said that the Groveland foursome may have “troubled” his father more than any other situation.

“But he believes that better days are yet to come,” Little Marshall said.

The Florida State Assembly formally apologized to the families of these men in 2017. More than two years ago, Governor Ron DeSantis and the state’s three-person cabinet granted a posthumous pardon. In 2018, the then Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi directed the State Department of Law Enforcement to review the case. Earlier this year, the agency submitted its findings to Gladson for review.

Gladson and an investigator interviewed Jesse Hunt’s grandson, two of Groveland’s four defendants who are now dead prosecutors. According to grandson Broward Hunt, his grandfather and a judge in the case knew that there was no rape.

According to a letter found in his grandfather’s office in 1971, the grandson also suggested to Gladson that Willis might have shot Shepard and Owen because of the sheriff’s involvement in illegal gambling activities. It is believed that Shepard was also involved in the gambling operation, and Willis may see the rape case as “a way to get certain people on his list,” Hunter told prosecutors and investigators.

Gladson also said that James Yates, his deputy as the main witness, may have forged evidence, including shoe models.

Prosecutors also sent Irving’s pants to a crime laboratory for semen testing in September, which had never been done in Irving’s trial, even though the jurors were believed to be soiled. The motion stated that the results showed no evidence of semen.

“The importance of this discovery cannot be overstated,” Gladson said in his motion.

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