The term Groveland Four was coined by the newspapers, for the American cause celebre in which four African-American men were accused of raping a Caucasian woman named Norma Padgett in Groveland, Florida in 1949. The four men were Ernest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Sam Shepherd and Walter Irvin.
Ernest Thomas fled the night of the incident. He was tracked down by a posse days later, 200 miles away. He was shot and killed by that posse. Officers reported that Thomas was armed and reached for his weapon.
NAACP attorney Franklin Williams reported that all three surviving suspects stated, independently of the others, that confessions were beaten out of them at the hands of deputies. He also reported obvious signs of severe beatings. FBI informant reports, and the intake records at the state prison (where they were held awaiting trail) confirmed these reports. This never came out at trial because the prosecution did not bring the confessions into evidence, instead relying on testimonies. There is a lot of uncertainty regarding whether a rape actually took place at all. Two of the defendants, Shepherd and Irvin, claimed they were in Eatonville, FL drinking that night. Greenlee and Thomas were apparently nowhere near the other defendants on that night and had never met the other defendants. The physician who examined Norma was not called to the witness stand. Sheriff Willis V. McCall's deputies were accused of manufacturing evidence in this case to win a... Read More