ORLANDO, Fla. (WESH) — On Monday, a judge exonerated the “Groveland Four,” a group of men accused of raping a woman more than 70 years ago.
Ernest Thomas, Samuel Shepherd, Charles Greenlee and Walter Irvin were all accused of raping a white woman in 1949 and sentenced to death.
They were officially pardoned by Gov. Ron DeSantis back in 2019. However, a pardon does not remove the doubt or inference of guilt, making Monday’s dismissal of charges significant.
The state attorney said the case was based on fabricated evidence and called it a criminal conspiracy between the sheriff and his deputies.
What happened in 1949 has been described by some as racist terrorism.
After being accused of raping a white woman in Groveland that year, Thomas was shot and killed by a group days later. Three other Black men were convicted by an all-white jury.
In 1951, two of the men, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin, were shot by the sheriff while he drove them to court for a retrial. Shepherd died but Irvin survived, and along with Charles Greenlee. They were convicted again by an all-white jury.
The pair spent years in prison.