TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – UPDATE: The clemency board pardoned the Groveland Four in a hearing Friday morning.
Original story below.
Seventy years after four black men were wrongly accused of raping a white woman in Groveland, Gov. Ron DeSantis is set to discuss possible posthumous clemency Friday.
Earnest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin, commonly referred to as the Groveland Four, were accused of the rape in 1949. The case has long been considered one of of the most notorious racial injustices in Florida's history.
Thomas was killed during the manhunt for the men. The other three were convicted without any hard evidence actually linking them to the crime. Shortly after, Shepherd was killed by a local sheriff. Greenlee and Irvin were eventually paroled after spending a collective 30 years in prison.
DeSantis vowed to prioritize reviewing the case once he assumed office. His Friday meeting is with the state of Florida's clemency board, which is comprised of the governor himself and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. Fried has been an outspoken supporter of pardoning the four men.
During the meeting, DeSantis will be reviewing a report from the Office of Executive Clemency on the four young men's case. If clemency is granted, the men's names would be cleared and they would be pardoned from all crimes.
"Make no mistake: These men were victims," DeSantis said.
In 2017, the Florida Legislature issued a formal apology to the Groveland Four's families. Then-Gov. Rick Scott and his clemency board did not issue pardons, even after being asked to do so by the mayor of Lake County.
Local social advocacy organization Central Florida Urban League applauds DeSantis' promptness in reviewing the case shortly after taking office.
“While 70 years have passed since the Groveland Four were wrongfully accused, it is never too late to officially restore their reputations and right a tremendous wrong,” Urban league president and CEO Glenton Gilzean Jr. said.
The clemency board meeting is scheduled to begin Friday at 9 a.m. in Tallahassee. Check back here to watch our livestream.