Four Black Men Accused of Rape in 1949 Finally Exonerated

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Ernest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin, known as the Groveland Four, four Black men accused of ambushing and raping a 17-year-old white woman when her husband’s car broke down on a Florida country road in 1949, have been exonerated. Circuit Judge Heidi Davis cleared them of the charge following a motion by State Attorney Bill Gladson in what he said was “a complete breakdown of the criminal justice system,” reports USA Today. Judge Davis’ ruling individually dismisses indictments, sets aside judgments and sentences, and corrects the record with newly discovered evidence. During a 2018 review, state’s Attorney Gladson discovered that the prosecutor and judge in the case likely knew there was no rape, that a deputy who served as a primary witness likely fabricated evidence, and that a key piece of evidence was never actually tested in a crime lab. were all quickly indicted during the Jim Crow era. See Also: Groveland Four, Racism and a Miscarriage of Justice, The Crime Report, Jan 14, 2019, and special Case Study: The Media and Wrongful Convictions by David Krajicek, Feb 17, 2014.

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