Groveland Four will have to wait for pardon

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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
December 5, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Florida’s governor and cabinet cancelled the last scheduled clemency hearing of their terms on Wednesday due to the funeral of President George H.W. Bush. The cancellation leaves an injustice uncorrected that dates back to 1949.

A legislative resolution leaves no doubt about what happened in 1949: Four black men were accused of raping a white woman.

One fled and was shot by a mob 400 times, as lawmakers described it during the 2018 legislative session. The three others, including 16-year-old Charles Greenlee, were tried and convicted.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned their convictions, but while the two adults were being taken back to Lake County for a new trial, they were shot on the side of the road by Sheriff Willis McCall.

One survived. Carol Greenlee’s father, Charles, was released from prison in 1962.

“He wanted forgiveness for everything that had happened to him. And today, a pardon is forgiveness,” said Carol in April of 2017 after the Florida Legislature issued a formal apology.

It’s now been over 19 months since lawmakers apologized and asked the Clemency Board to expedite pardons for the four men.

The last scheduled clemency meeting under Rick Scott’s administration was cancelled. NAACP Chapter President Dalaitre Hollinger says the lack of action is only prolonging the injustice.

"Well I think it’s always important to right the wrong, no matter how long long ago it’s been,” said Hollinger.

Under the Clemency Board rules, any member can bring up any case at any time.

“The year’s not done and our term’s not done,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. "There may yet be an opportunity, but that’s still in flux.”

In a statement the Governor’s Office said, “We continue to review all of our options.”

Under Clemency Board rules, only the governor can initiate a pardon. At least one other board member must agree.

The pardon process can take place without a formal hearing.

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