A grave miscarriage of justice occurred decades ago in Florida. Four innocent black men were falsely accused of raping a white woman. Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas will forever be known as the “Groveland Four.”
The Washington Post, naturally, couldn’t write about the case without throwing shade at outgoing Gov. Rick Scott, who has not pardoned the men. “Florida’s ‘Groveland Four’ case was a horrific injustice. Gov. Rick Scott still hasn’t pardoned the falsely accused,” the headline at the Post reads.
“The failure to act on the nearly 70-year-old injustice adds an unsettling coda to Scott’s years in office, a time when Florida struggled through a number of racially charged controversies, including the recent governor’s race. Without the clemency board’s pardon, it’s unclear whether one of Florida’s great moral failings will ever be put right,” the Post wrote.
The links in the quote go to reports about Trayvon Martin, felons wanting to vote, and some left-leaning accusations that Florida Republicans are racist. Only two links go to claims that could actually be considered racially charged (one involved the murder of teens playing rap music and the other about a police chief framing black men).
As the Post points out, the “Groveland Four” case came into focus in 2013 (Scott has been governor since 2011) when a book was written about the injustice. Advocates have lobbied for a pardon, but Scott hasn’t given one. His office told Florida Politics they were reviewing “all of our options.”
Who knows why Scott hasn’t pardoned the four men, who are sadly all dead. To be clear, he absolutely should pardon these men, and anyone else who is innocent. If Scott doesn’t do it, incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis should. But whipping up anger at Scott is petty and shows a bias. The Post is clearly doing this to make Scott appear racist, as it attempted to do during the election. It is doubtful the newspaper would write an article like this if Scott were a Democrat.
The horror of the “Groveland Four” speaks for itself. In 1949, Willie Padgett and his young wife, Norma, were driving when their car broke down. Two of the “Groveland Four,” Walter Irvin and Samuel Shepherd, stopped to help. The couple would later tell police the two men and Charles Greenlee and Ernest Thomas, attacked Padgett and raped Norma.
Greenlee – just 16 years old – Irvin, and Shepherd were arrested and put in Sheriff Willis McCall’s custody. Thomas attempted to escape and was shot by law enforcement 200 miles away.
“Although the three men had alibis for the time of the alleged rape, there was no physical evidence tying them to the crime and it was questionable whether an assault even occurred, all three were quickly convicted by a local jury in 1949. Greenlee was given life in prison. Shepherd and Irvin were sent to death row,” the Post wrote.
Irvin and Shepherd’s convictions were overturned by the United States Supreme Court and a new trial was set, but the two men wouldn’t make it to the trial. McCall was driving them back to Lake County when, McCall claimed, he had to pull over to fix a tire. McCall claims the two men attempted to flee and he had to shoot them. Shepherd died during the altercation, but Irvin survived and said McCall tried to murder them. Irvin said McCall took to his police radio and said, “I got rid of them” and “Killed the sons of b—–s.” McCall was cleared of the crime.
Thurgood Marshall represented Irvin when he was retried, but the famed NAACP attorney couldn’t save the young man. Irvin was sentenced to death row.
In 1954, Irvin was spared from execution and released from prison in 1968. He died in 1970. Greenlee had been serving a life sentence and was released in 1962. He died in 2012. They were never officially pardoned.
Previously, the Washington Post has maintained that false accusations are so rare as to not even be considered. They repeatedly use the misleading statistics that claims just 2% to 10% of accusations are false, even though that number only refers to proven false. As I’ve written previously, using this same logic, one could only say 3% to 5% are true, since that’s how many actually lead to a conviction. Of course, no one would dare say that, as it would go against the “Believe All Women” mantra the Post and others spread.
The Post has, at least, recently acknowledged that many black men face false accusations – though they still push policies that encourage this mistreatment on college campuses.