Demand Exoneration for Four Men Wrongfully Accused of Rape 63 Years Ago

The Old Bailey

Target: Florida Governor Rick Scott

Goal: Public exoneration and apology from the State of Florida to the families of the “Groveland Four,” four black men convicted of rape in 1949 without any physical evidence

In 1949, Samuel Shepherd, Walter Irving, Charles Greenlee and Ernest Thomas were convicted of raping then 17-year-old Norma Padgett in Lake County, Florida. The only evidence presented was Padgett and her husband’s testimony, which claimed that she was raped by four black men after the Padgett’s car broke down on the night in question. The conviction of all four was reached even though each defendant had an alibi. Three of the four served jail time: all except Thomas, who was gunned down when he allegedly tried to escape arrest. The families of the accused are now seeking exoneration for the four men after a document surfaced earlier this year which included testimony from the doctor who examined Padgett after she was allegedly raped in 1949. In the document the doctor claims he found no physical evidence of rape. This lack of evidence coupled with the defendants all having alibis points to a complete fabrication on the part of the plaintiff and the state. Help the families of the victims urge Florida Governor Rick Scott to finally absolve these men of any wrong-doing in this case.

The single most appalling fact in this whole affair is that the lead prosecutor had a copy of the doctor’s report during the trial and refused to show it to a defense lawyer when it was requested. And when an author writing a book about this case requested a copy of the doctor’s report from the FBI in 2002 he received the report but with every word blacked out. The state government is trying to protect its reputation and that of the men who worked against justice in this case over sixty years ago. It is utterly disgusting that people today would seek to protect past politicians and avoid perhaps their own embarrassment, rather than to clear the name of four wrongfully convicted men who served jail time for fabricated charges.

What the state of Florida owes these men and their families is beyond an apology and even an admission of wrongdoing; however, this is exactly where the state needs to start. The governor of Florida needs to admit the state made a mistake, as well as condemn the past efforts of those who worked against justice in this case. Please demand this of the state and help the families of these innocent men restore their honor.

PETITION LETTER

Dear Governor Rick Scott,

We are writing to urge you to exonerate Samuel Shepherd, Walter Irving, Charles Greenlee and Ernest Thomas, the so-called “Groveland Four.” The evidence that was presented at the time of the trial was essentially nonexistent and each defendant had his own alibi. The document containing the testimony of Dr. Geoffrey Binneveld, which has recently come to light, clearly states the doctor was unable to find any physical evidence that any rape took place on the night in question. And what’s worse is that the lead prosecutor withheld this document from the defense at the time of the trial when the document was specifically requested. Further compounding the willful obstruction by the state in this case is the fact that when Gary Corsair–an author researching the case for his book Legal Lynching–requested the document of Dr. Binneveld’s testimony in 2002 he was sent a fully redacted copy of the document.

The state of Florida has clearly made serious errors, both willful and otherwise, with regards to the handling of this case. The efforts to save face and protect both the reputation of the state and the men who were responsible for these egregious errors needs to end now. Instead, think of the reputation of the men who were wrongfully accused of rape, and the stain of guilt that they and their families have had to endure for over 60 years. We urge you to stand up for these men and their families. It is, of course, the very least you can do for them, but it’s a start.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit by FreeFoto.com

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