Hearing in Groveland Four case set after attorney files motion to dismiss guilty verdicts

Bill Gladson filed motion Monday

Groveland Four memorial unveiled in Lake County

LAKE COUNTY, Fla.UPDATE: The Groveland Four hearing will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 22, according to Florida’s fifth judicial circuit.

ORIGINAL STORY: A state attorney is still fighting to exonerate Lake County’s Groveland Four, a group of men wrongfully convicted of rape in 1949.

Bill Gladson, of Florida’s fifth judicial circuit, filed a motion Monday to dismiss the guilty verdicts of Charles Greenlee and Walter Irvin, as well as the indictments against Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas — both of whom were killed before their cases were retried and tried for the first time, respectively.

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“Even a casual review of the record reveals that these four men were deprived of the fundamental due process rights that are guaranteed to all Americans,” the motion reads.

If Gladson’s motion passes, the Groveland Four members would legally be absolved of guilt in association with their wrongful conviction.

“Given these facts today, no fair-minded prosecutor would even consider filing these charges and no reasonable jury would convict. The evidence strongly suggests that the sheriff, the judge, and the prosecutor all but ensured guilty verdicts in this case,” the motion continues.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a member of the Florida Clemency Board who advocated for the pardon and absolution of the Groveland Four in 2018, praised the motion.

“I thank State Attorney Gladson for standing on the right side of history in filing today’s motion and look forward to the full and irrevocable innocence of the Groveland Four,” she said.

Carol Greenlee, the daughter of Charles Greenlee, responded to the State Attorney’s Office with the following statement:

“My family and I are deeply grateful to State Attorney Bill Gladson and his team for their dedicated efforts to review the case and right the wrongs committed against the Groveland Four more than seven decades ago. While we are thankful the Florida Legislature apologized and the Board of Executive Clemency granted pardons, full justice depends on action from the judicial branch. I hope this motion will result in that full justice for my father Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas.”

In Dec. 2018, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted a review of the case and the men were later pardoned by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Jan. 11, 2019.

A monument was built to honor the Groveland Four in Lake County in Feb. 2020.

About the Author:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.