Four Black men who were accused of raping a white woman in 1949 have been pardoned.
On Friday (Jan. 11), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s three-member Cabinet granted posthumous pardons to four Black men, who were involved in the case known as the Groveland Four. The four include Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas. Unfortunately, Ernest was killed before he was charged, and the other three were convicted on questionable evidence, according to NBC News.
Norma Padgett, the white woman who accused the men at 17, sat in a wheelchair and told Gov. DeSantis and the Cabinet that the rape did happen, saying she was forcibly removed from a car, had a gun pointed at her and was ordered not to scream or the men would “blow [her] brains out.”
The families of the men told DeSantis and the Cabinet during the clemency board meeting that there was an outstanding amount of evidence that the men were innocent and that no rape ever happened. “It never happened. You all are liars,” said Beverly Robinson, the niece of one of the men. “That’s enough out of you,” Padgett said. “I know it’s enough out of me. It’s always enough when you’re telling the truth,” Robinson replied. The pardon comes two years after the state House and Senate voted to formally apologize to relatives of the Groveland Four and to ask then-Gov. Rick Scott to pardon the men.
After Scott, who is now U.S. senator never took action; DeSantis who replaced Scott finally issued the pardon. “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,” DeSantis said.