Nikki Fried on New Motion for Groveland Four Innocence

Oct 25, 2021

Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, State Attorney Bill Gladson of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of Florida filed a motion to dismiss the indictments and set aside judgments and sentences of the Groveland Four, four Black men wrongfully accused of rape in 1949. This major development would, if granted by the Lake County Circuit Court, recognize the innocence of these men after more than seventy years.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, an independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet and Clemency Board, offered the following statement:

“Today, our state is one step closer to righteous justice for the four wrongly-accused men of Groveland. Before even taking office, I pledged to pursue the innocence of the Groveland Four as a member of Florida’s Clemency Board. Through their pardons in 2019 and continued pressure for their exoneration, and through the prayers of their families and the relentless quest for the truth, this motion will make clear that Charles GreenleeWalter IrvinSamuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas suffered a racist miscarriage of justice for more than seventy years for crimes they never committed. I thank State Attorney Gladson for standing on the right side of history in filing today’s motion and look forward to the full and irrevocable innocence of the Groveland Four.”

Background: On July 16, 1949, four young Black men were wrongfully accused of raping a woman in Lake County, Florida. While several of the convictions were later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the men “framed and killed by a racist sheriff” had not been declared innocent. Prior to taking office, Commissioner-elect Fried pledged to seek their pardon at the new Clemency Board’s first meeting in 2019. After the pardon was granted posthumously in January 2019, Commissioner Fried, State Rep. Geraldine Thompson, and others continued to push for the Groveland Four’s full exoneration, with Fried issuing a Cabinet proclamation and Thompson introducing legislation calling for their innocence.