TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Four men considered victims of racial injustice could soon have their names cleared. The Governor and Elected Cabinet will take up the case this Friday at the first meeting of the new clemency board.
In 1949 four black men, now called the Groveland Four, were falsely accused of raping a white woman in Central Florida. Since then, two of the men have been killed and the other two men have spent a collective 30 years in prison.
In 2017, the Florida Legislature issued a formal apology for the atrocity. Senate Sponsor Gary Farmer says the apology was only intended as a first step.
“That was an interim step to get to the clemency board and get these pardons issued," said Farmer.
While the previous Governor and Cabinet never took up the case, Governor Ron DeSantis has said it is a priority, putting the case on the agenda for the first meeting of the Board of Executive Clemency set for Friday. Whether or not the board comprised of the Governor and Cabinet will grant a pardon at the meeting is still up in the air.
“There's a lot of things that have come to the surface," said Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. "We're going to get educated.”
Senator Farmer has said it’s his understanding Friday’s meeting will be limited to a discussion only.
“Hope springs eternal and I do believe that if not at Friday's meeting, at the next Clemency Board meeting this issue will be taken up for a vote," said Farmer.
Under the previous administration, clemency meetings were only held four times a year. If a pardon doesn’t come Friday, it could be months before action is taken, unless the new board members agree to meet on a more frequent basis.
The only Democrat on the Executive Board of Clemency, Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried has been the most vocal advocate in support of approving a full pardon.
“We have conflicted conversations coming from the Governor's office. From his opinion, we're going to just have a discussion. I'm going to be pushing that we actually have an action item on Friday," said Fried.
At the time of the apology, some lawmakers suggested repetitions such as free college for descendants of the victims. Whether that is something the new administration is considering is not known.