Florida judge posthumously clears Groveland Four of any wrongdoing

Judge approved a series of motions that cleared the names of 4 Black men wrongfully accused of rape in 1949

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – A judge has approved a series of motions that cleared the names of Lake County’s Groveland Four, a group of young African American men wrongfully convicted of rape in 1949.

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

During a hearing Monday, Judge Heidi Davis approved each of the motions, which meant the four men were legally absolved of guilt in association with their wrongful conviction.

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Family members of the men and supporters crowded the courtroom and cheered after the decision was made official.

“My father was a caring, loving, compassionate person that did not rape anybody,” Carol Greenlee, who is the daughter of Charles Greenlee, said.

After the hearing, dozens gathered at the Lake County Historical Courthouse, at the site of the Groveland Four memorial.

“Wow, it’s been a long time coming,” Gerald Threat, who is the nephew of Walter Irvin, said. “This thanksgiving, we can have an entirely different atmosphere without this hanging over our head.”

Monday’s decision came after 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.

About the Author:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.