In 1949, a U.S. court overturned the false sentence of four black men convicted of abducting and raping a white woman in Florida after 72 years.
Charles Greenley, also known as Crowland Four, Walter Irwin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas were pardoned from the state of Florida in January 2019.
None of the accused were alive at the time of sentencing. They were 16 to 26 years old when charged.
Shortly after being charged, Thomas was hunted down by more than a thousand armed men. The other three defendants were remanded in custody before being declared guilty by all white jurors.
Shepherd will be shot by a sheriff during the re-trial.
Irwin escaped the death penalty in 1954, and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment with parole. He died a year after his release in 1969.
Greenley, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, was released on parole in 1962 and died in 2012.
At the request of the trial court, Florida Judge Heidi Davis dropped the charges against Ernest Thomas and Samuel Shepherd, and overturned the sentences and convictions of Charles Greenley and Walter Irwin.
Relatives of the four who were falsely accused were so moved to hear the news that it could trigger a wave of reconsideration of other such sentences.
“We’m blessed. I hope this is a start because a lot of people do not get this opportunity. A lot of families do not get this opportunity,” said Aaron Newson, Thomas’ son-in-law, who began to cry as he spoke. . “This country must unite.”
Carol Greenlee’s daughter (he was 16 and the youngest of the suspects at the time of the false accusation) cried when she heard her decision and fell into the arms of those around her.
“If you know something is right, fight for it,” she said after a while. “Be diligent.”
Prosecutor Bill Gladstone of the Republican Party filed a lawsuit last month to officially release the men.
“We followed the evidence to see where it took us, it took us to this moment,” Gladsson said after a hearing in the same courtroom where the original hearings took place.
In 2017, the Florida government granted a “genuine apology” to the families of four men and recommended their apology after their deaths.
The story of four men was the subject of the book The devil in the groveWon the Pulitzer Prize in 2013.
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