The Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, posthumously forgives eight black men in the rape case of 1949
Florida's new governor, Ron DeSantis, posthumously forgave four black men accused in a racially charged rape case in 1949, even after the wheelchair-bound prosecutor reprimanded him in court.
Republican DeSantis, who was sworn in on Tuesday, was the hearing of the Board of Executive Clemency on Friday in Tallahassee, which voted for the so-called & # 39; Groveland Four & # 39; to liberate.
The case is documented in a book and is considered a curse on the history of Florida. One of the four men was killed before he could be charged and the other three were convicted on the basis of thin evidence.
The families of the men accused of the attack told DeSantis and the three-party cabinet of the state – meeting as clemency board – that there is overwhelming evidence that the men were innocent and there was no rape – but the alleged victim was also present, and vocally insisted that the rape had taken place.
Norma Padgett, who was 17 when she said she was raped, sat in a wheelchair during the hearing on Friday and reiterated her testimony that the rape was taking place and the men were guilty
Florida's new governor, Ron DeSantis, granted the four black men who had been accused in the racist charge against the rape in 1949 during the hearing of the clemency board on Friday posthumously granted the pardon
Relatives of the Groveland Four can be seen in 2017, when the Florida House issued a resolution with apologies for the injustice suffered by the men
Norma Padgett, who was 17 when she said she was raped, was in a wheelchair and told DeSantis and the cabinet that the rape had indeed taken place.
Padgett, now 86, said she was dragged out of a car, got a gun on her head, and was told not to scream, otherwise they would hit you & # 39;
At one point the two parties clashed when a relative of the defendant Padgett called a liar dramatically.
Beverly Robinson, a niece of one of the Groveland Four, spoke with the governor and the cabinet when she turned to the wife and her sons.
& # 39; It never happened. You are all liars, "Robinson said.
& # 39; That's enough of you, & # 39; said the woman.
& # 39; I know it's enough of me. It's always enough when you tell the truth, "replied Robinson.
The unanimous vote for pardon came almost two years after the state house and senate voted to formally apologize to relatives of the Groveland Four and then ask governor Rick Scott to pardon the men. Scott, now a US senator, has never taken action. DeSantis replaced Scott on Tuesday and made it a priority.
& # 39; You just do not know what horror I've been through for years, & # 39; said Padgett (above), her voice quivered as she repeated her accusations on Friday
Norma Padgett and her husband Willie are seen after interrogation in a newspaper cut from 1949. The couple both said they were present when Norma was attacked and raped by a group
The full statement of Groveland Four Prosecutor to the clemency board
Norma Padgett, 86, made the following statement for Florida's Board of Executive Clemency and Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday, January 11, 2019 in Tallahassee:
& # 39; My name is Norma Tyson Padgett Upshaw and I'm the victim of that night.
And I'll tell you now that I think about it, it's been in my mind for 70 years now.
I was 17 years old and this has never left me …
I will tell you this: if you had a gun to your head and said that if you screamed and did not do what they said they would blow your brains off, what would you do?
And if you had a daughter and a mother and a wife and a sister or a niece, would you forgive them? No, I do not think so. I really do not.
And every time he comes up, I just vibrate inside. And I lived it for 60 years.
When my boys were small, I closed my mouth because … I was afraid something would happen. They can discover where they were and kill them or do something. Now my grandchildren are up and going to school and I'm worried about them. And my great-grandchildren are coming.
You just do not know what horror I've been through for years.
(Her voice vibrates.)
I never said to my children … they knew it, but they never knew what horror I experienced. And I love each of them.
And I do not want them to get pardon, no, I do not. And you neither.
I know that she (Beverly Robinson, Samuel Shepherd's cousin) called me a liar.
But I am not a liar.
If I had to go to court today, I could tell you the same story that I told you then and I could [take] you on the route. Some places are no longer there, but I could do it [take] you and I could show you and I walked through the night.
I do not know how many miles it was, but I walked all night. And I knew that I was closer to another city. But they went that way and I had seen headlights and I ran to the forest. I do not know how long I stayed there. I did not have a watch. I had nothing.
And now, my nerves are so bad and I'm trembling on the inside and I can not help it.
I beg you to give no mercy because they have done it.
Your thoughts may have been invented. I do not know.
If you do that [pardon them]you will be just like them …
And that is all I have to say, because I know that I am speaking the truth.
I went to court twice …
I can tell you now – not the exact words – but you could almost quote today what I said then. And if anyone has questions from you, ask me, I'll answer them how I know.
As I say … if something happens to one of my children, I hope it is all about us [because] I begged you not to do it and it is liable.
As I said, if there is a question you want to ask me, I will try to answer it if I can. & # 39;
Source: Orlando Sentinel
I do not know that there is a way to look at this matter and to think that those ideals of justice are fulfilled. In fact, they were twisted again and again, and I think the way this was done was a miscarriage of justice, "DeSantis said.
Padgett is seen as a witness in the original case
The ordeal began in Lake County in 1949 when the then 17-year-old Padgett said she had been raped.
Her husband Willie also told the police that he was present when four black men attacked the couple in their car where it had landed on a country road and dragged her way at gunpoint to rape her.
Three of the men identified as suspects were arrested and severely abused; a fourth, Ernest Thomas, fled.
A group of about 1,000 men was formed to defeat Thomas. He was shot 400 times when they found him sleeping under a tree.
White inhabitants also formed a crowd and went to a black neighborhood, burned houses and fired guns in houses in a disturbance that took days to suppress.
Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin and Samuel Shepherd were condemned by a completely white jury.
Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall, far left, and an unidentified man standing next to (from left to right) rape suspects Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Charles Greenlee in 1949
Samuel Shepherd is seen on the left while in the Air Corps of the US Army, circa 1948. He was shot dead by Sheriff Willis McCall (right) while he was impassioned during an alleged escape attempt in 1951
Other evidence that would have acquitted them – such as a doctor's statement that he was not sure whether she had been raped – was withheld in their trial. Greenlee was sentenced to life, and Irvin and Shepherd to death.
Thurgood Marshall, later the first African American judge in the US Supreme Court, took up the appeals of Irvin and Shepherd for the NAACP and in 1951 the US Supreme Court ordered new lawsuits.
Just before those lawsuits began, Sheriff Willis McCall of Lake County shot Irvin and Shepherd, claiming that the captive men were trying to escape when he transferred them from prison to a prison.
Shepherd died. Irvin was shot in his neck and survived in spite of an ambulance who refused to transport him because he was black. He was again convicted, although a former FBI agent testified that prosecutors fabricated evidence against him.
No charges have ever been filed against white law enforcers or prosecutors handling the cases.
Irvin was conditionally released in 1968 and found dead in his car when he returned to Lake County a year later for a funeral.
Greenlee was released in 1960 and died in 2012.
Sheriff McCall (right) is on the spot after shooting Irvin and Shepherd during an alleged escape attempt when he transferred them from prison to a prison for a hearing prior to their re-trial
The two suspects are seen after they have been shot. Shepherd died. Irvin was shot in his neck and survived in spite of an ambulance who refused to transport him because he was black
Greenlee & # 39; s daughter, Carol Greenlee, told DeSantis and the cabinet that there was overwhelming evidence that her father was innocent.
"He was accused, put in jail and tortured for something he did not do," she said.
The woman who said she had been raped disputed the family's stories.
& # 39; You just do not know what horror I've been through for years, & # 39; she said. I do not want them to be pardoned, no, I do not, and neither do you. I know (Robinson) called me a liar, but I am not a liar. & # 39;
Then Senator Gary Farmer, who sponsored the 2017 resolution and apologized the families, said that the woman's comments were disappointing.
Now she is here at the end of her life and she had a chance to be clean, to seek forgiveness for herself and to support the justice that these four families and these four men deserve, & # 39; said Farmer. & # 39; It is said that she has lost this opportunity and continues this lie. This crime did not happen. The evidence is overwhelming. & # 39;
Members of the Greenlee family have met with reporters after the vote. Carol Greenlee said, while the family is grateful for the pardon, she wants her father to be acquitted.
& # 39; I started with two goals in mind. One, for the world to know the truth, and that is that my father is not a rapist. The second was to clear his name so that his children, his grandchildren and cousins would not continue to walk around with this stigma, with the shame, "she said. & # 39; Those two things were accomplished. And the complete exoneration will close the gap. That is our mission. & # 39;
Despite the pain the family went through, Greenlee's brother Wade said his parents always taught their children to love and not to hate them.
& # 39; If I had had a chance this morning, I would have told the prosecutor that the Greenlee family had long ago forgiven her. We have no hatred for her because we have learned differently, "he said.