Senator Marco Rubio calls for the pardon of the Groveland Four
Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has called for the formal pardon of four Black men who were demonized, blamed and wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in 1949.
On Tuesday, Rubio asked Senate members who will take office in the new year to pardon the group of men known as The Groveland Four, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
Rubio’s office told Blavity the Senator feels it is “time for Florida to do the right thing for the Groveland Four.”
Details of the case involve Earnest Thomas, Samuel Shepherd, Walter Irvin and Charles Greenlee (then 16) who were accused of raping a 17-year-old white woman and attacking her husband in Groveland, Florida in 1949.
The men were arrested by Sheriff Willis V. McCall and according to the Tampa Bay Times, they were brutally beaten until they confessed to the crime. Shepherd and Irvin were military veterans and Thomas and Greenlee were both married.
Even though evidence proved Shepherd and Irvin were non-guilty, they were forced to confess anyway.
Thomas escaped from jail. McCall led up an effort to find Thomas and organized a group of deputies who searched him down and killed him. McCall also allegedly orchestrated the fatal shooting of Shepard and the attempted fatal shooting of Irvin, according to reports.
During that time, Thurgood Marshall took up the issue and brought the case before the Supreme Court for the surviving men. After securing a new trial, the men were re-sentenced to prison in a lower court.
Questions about Irvin’s trial persisted over the years and it 1968 he was finally paroled because of concerns about him receiving a fair trial. The same happened for Greenlee who was paroled in 1962.
Rubio supports an effort to “give these men back their good name.”
“After 70 years, it is time for Florida to do the right thing for the Groveland Four,” Rubio said. “What we can do now, as a state in Florida, is seek the forgiveness of their families and of them for the grave injustice that was committed against them.”
Florida’s outgoing governor Rick Scott has previously refused to pardon the men, AP reports.