Groveland Four pardoned after 70 years

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - On July 16, 1949, a 17-year-old central Florida woman accused four black men of rape.

Two were killed; one by a mob, the other by the Sheriff. Two others served a dozen years in prison.

Now, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Clemency Board have righted a 70-year-old wrong.

Carol Greenlee first met her father, one of four black men accused of rape, in Florida State Prison.

"He was accused, put in jail, tortured for something he did not do," said Greenlee.

Norma Padgett, the now 87-year-old alleged victim sat in the front row, when the first cousin of Samuel Shepherd, the man shot and killed in cold blood by the county sheriff, let sparks fly.

"It never happened Miss Padgett. Family, it never happened. You all are liars," said Dr. Beverly Robinson.

Padgett told the panel she sticks by her story.

"And I don't want the pardon. No, I do not and you wouldn't either," said Padgett. "I know she called me a liar, but I'm not no liar."

The State Legislature apologized to the Groveland families in 2017. So has Lake County, where the injustice occurred.

Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters before the meeting he had read the entire file and was convinced action was needed.

"I think it was a miscarriage of justice," said Governor DeSantis.

Efforts to get the pardon began in 2014.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said it wasn’t about who was telling the truth.

"Today we were focused on righting a wrong of more than 70 years ago," said Moody.

Greenlee told us she feels the life sentence she’s been serving is finally over.

"My father is not a rapist. My father is a Christian man," said Greenlee.

In addition to pardoning the two men who served prison time, the board also pardoned the two who were killed before standing trial.