It’s 1949 in Groveland, Florida in the Jim Crow South, and the lives of four, young, innocent black men will change forever. All will be wrongly accused, one will be shot while asleep and the others will die after a lifetime of punishment and pain. They will later become known as the Groveland Boys and the case will affect the course of the civil rights movement in America.
This week the State Attorney for the Fifth Judicial Circuit of Florida, William “Bill” Gladson, filed a motion to clear the name of those four young men and dismiss the indictments of Ernest Thomas and Samuel Shepherd, set aside the judgments and sentences of Charles Greenlee and Walter Irvin, and correct the record with newly discovered evidence in the case known as “The Groveland Four.”
The story of the Groveland Boys, or Groveland Four, was chronicled in the Pulitzer Prize winning non-fiction book, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, The Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America. The fascinating book by Gilbert King was recently atopic for discussion in Trial School’s Top Shelf Book Club, hosted by John Uustal, and brought to life the dark past and dramatically recounted the disturbing events of the case. Thurgood Marshall represented the young men for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and gained national attention. Four young men, later known as the Groveland Boys, were wrongly accused and convicted of raping a young white woman.
The four men were pardoned in 2019, and now the State Attorney is working to have all indictments and sentences set aside, and the record corrected.
The hearing is scheduled for Monday.