The Groveland Four (or the Groveland Boys) were four young African-American men, Earnest Thomas, Charles Greenlee (then a minor at age 16), Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin, who in 1949 were accused of raping a 17-year-old white woman and assaulting her husband in Lake County, Florida.
Thomas fled and was killed by a posse several days later and 200 miles away; Greenlee, Shepherd and Irvin were arrested. They were beaten in jail to coerce confessions, but Irvin did not confess. The three survivors were convicted at trial by an all-white jury. Greenlee was sentenced to life because he was only 16 at the time of the crime; the other two were sentenced to death. In 1951 the United States Supreme Court ordered a retrial after hearing appeals by the latter two men, led by Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. It ruled they had not received a fair trial because of excessive adverse publicity and because blacks had been excluded from the jury.
In November 1951, Sheriff Willis McCall shot both Shepherd and Irvin while they were in his custody, saying they had tried to escape while he was transporting them from Raiford State Prison back to the county seat of Tavares, Florida, for the new trial. Shepherd died on the spot; Irvin survived his wounds and later told FBI investigators that the sheriff had shot them in cold blood and that his deputy Yates had also shot him in an attempt to finish him off.
At the second trial, Irvin was again convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to death. In 1955 his sentence was commuted to life by recently elected Governor Leroy Collins. In 1968 Irvin was paroled. He died in February 1969 in Lake County.
In 2016 the City of Groveland and Lake County each apologized to survivors of the four men for the injustice against them. The four were posthumously exonerated on April 18, 2017, by a resolution of the Florida House of Representatives. The state senate quickly passed a similar resolution, and lawmakers called on Florida Governor Rick Scott to officially pardon the men.
On January 11, 2019, the Florida Board of Executive Clemency voted to pardon the Groveland Four. Wikipedia