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Florida clears Groveland Four of 1949 rape of white woman

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Posted at 4:44 PM, Nov 22, 2021

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida has formally cleared four Black men who were falsely accused of raping a white woman more than seven decades ago.

At the local prosecutor's request, a judge on Monday dismissed the charges and convictions against the Groveland Four: Ernest Thomas, Samuel Shepherd, Charles Greenlee, and Walter Irvin.

According to the Associated Press, the men ranged from 16 to 26 at the time.

They were accused of raping a woman in the central Florida town of Groveland in 1949.

Thomas and Shepherd were fatally shot by law enforcement.

According to the news outlet, Thomas was shot more than 400 times by a posse shortly after the rape accusation.

Shepherd was fatally shot by the local sheriff, Willis McCall, the news outlet reported.

The AP reported that McCall shot and wounded Irvin in 1951.

Greenlee and Irvin were wrongly convicted and served prison sentences.

The AP reported that Irvin was sentenced to death, but in 1954, Gov. LeRoy Collins commuted his sentence to life with parole.

He died in 1969, one year after being paroled, the news outlet reported.

Greenlee was sentenced to life, too, but was paroled in 1962.

He died in 2012, the AP reported.

Later evidence showed the sheriff and others had falsely accused the men.

The men's families told the AP that they hope this case will allow other convictions that happened during the Jim Crow era to be looked at again, for those falsely convicted can get their names cleared as well.

According to the AP, the men were exonerated in the same building their trials were held.