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    More than 70 years later, four black men falsely accused of rape were exonerated: NPR

    Relatives of the boys, from left to right, Vivian Shepard, Sam Shepard’s niece, Gerald Threat, and Walter Irvin’s nephew. Charles Greenley’s daughter, Carol Greenley, will meet on February 21, 2020 at the Groveland Four Memorial in front of the Old Lake County Hall in Tavares, Florida.

    Joe Burbank / AP


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    Relatives of the boys, from left to right, Vivian Shepard, Sam Shepard’s niece, Gerald Threat, and Walter Irvin’s nephew. Charles Greenley’s daughter, Carol Greenley, will meet on February 21, 2020 at the Groveland Four Memorial in front of the Old Lake County Hall in Tavares, Florida.

    Joe Burbank / AP

    Fort Lauderdale, Florida — A judge on Monday partially and lately corrected one of Florida’s greatest false accusations during the Jim Crow era, with four false accusations of raping a white woman 70 years ago. Officially accused a young African-American man.

    At the request of a local prosecutor, Administrative Law Judge Heidi Davis dismissed the charges of Ernest Thomas and Samuel Shepherd, who were fatally shot by law enforcement agencies, and convicted Charles Greenley and Walter Irvin. I set aside the judgment. Men, then known as boys aged 16 to 26, were accused of raping a woman in Groveland, a town in central Florida in 1949.

    Bill Gladson, a local state lawyer, said after a hearing at the same Lake County Courthouse where the first trial took place, “According to the evidence, where it led us and it led us to this moment. I confirmed that it led to. ” Republican Gladson moved last month to officially exempt the man.

    Men’s families said the case probably triggered a review of other convictions of black men and women from the Jim Crow era, allowing those who were falsely convicted to clear their names. ..

    Thomas’ nephew Aaron Newson said, “We are blessed. We hope this is the beginning because many people did not have this opportunity. Many families have this opportunity. I didn’t get it. Maybe they will. ” He shed tears as he spoke. “This country needs to be together.”

    Thomas was killed by a group of people who shot him more than 400 times shortly after the accusation of rape. Local sheriff Willis McCall shot and killed Shepherd in 1951, injuring Irvin. He said no evidence was presented and filed a second trial after the US Supreme Court overturned the original conviction. Sheriffs claimed that the men tried to escape, but Irvine said McCall and his deputy shot them with cold blood.

    Gilbert King, who won the Pulitzer Prize in the 2012 book Thurgood Marshall, Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of New America, attended a hearing with the son of Thurgood Marshall Jr. The late Judge of the US Supreme Court.

    Thurgood Marshall Sr., along with the NAACP, represented Irvine in a second trial, but a white jury again convicted him and he was sentenced to death. Irvine barely escaped the execution in 1954, and Governor LeRoy Collins commuted his sentence on parole. Greenlee, also sentenced to life imprisonment, was released on parole in 1962 and died in 2012. Irvine died in 1969, a year after his parole.

    King said that exempting a man from the same building where the trial took place was “very important because there was a court on the second floor where the abomination of justice happened 72 years ago.” He praised Gladson for his pursuit of justice.

    “He could have easily kicked the case and let someone else deal with it,” King said. “Even when he was frustrated and felt that there was no way to this day, he dug harder.”

    Marshall Jr. said Globeland Four “worried” his father, perhaps more than any other case.

    “But he believed that a better day would come,” said Marshall Jr.

    The 2017 Florida State Capitol officially apologized to a male family member. Governor Ron DeSantis and the three state cabinets granted posthumous amnesty more than two years ago. In 2018, then Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi ordered the State Law Enforcement Authority to review the case. Earlier this year, the agency referred the findings to Gladson for his review.

    Gladson and the investigators interviewed the grandchildren of two of the boys’ defendants, the now-deceased prosecutor Jesse Hunter. According to his grandson, Broward Hunter, his grandfather, and the judge in the case knew there was no rape.

    The grandson also suggested to Gladson that Willis may have shot Shepherd and Irvine because the sheriff was involved in an illegal gambling act, based on a letter he found in his grandfather’s office in 1971. Shepherd is also believed to be involved in gambling activities, and Willis may have considered the rape case “a way to catch some of his list,” Hunter said with prosecutors. I told the official.

    Gladson also said that adjutant James Yates, who was the main witness, was likely to have forged evidence, including the cast of shoes.

    The prosecution also sent Irvine’s trousers to the Institute of Criminology for semen inspection in September, even though the jury was given the impression that the trousers were dirty. This was never done in Irvine’s trial. The results showed no evidence of semen, said Exercise.

    “The importance of this discovery cannot be exaggerated,” Mr. Gladson said in a motion.

    More than 70 years later, four black men falsely accused of rape were exonerated: NPR

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