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Families of Groveland Four want apology

9/5/2012, 1:48 p.m.

LAKE COUNTY, FL -- Relatives of three men convicted in a racially-charged case that made international headlines 63 years ago are seeking apologies for the wrongful imprisonment of their loved ones.

Wade Greenlee will formally ask for an apology from Lake County and the State of Florida during a press conference at the Lady Lake Public (Florida) Library at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012.

His brother Charles Greenlee was one of the Groveland Four, four young black men accused of rape in July 1949. That accusation led to rioting in and around Groveland, Florida and the murder of one of the suspects by a posse before the trial.

An all-white jury sentenced 16-year-old Charles Greenlee to life in prison. He served 11-and-a-half years before being paroled. He passed away this year.

Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irving were sentenced to death, but the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a retrial. In November 1951, notorious Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall shot both defendants, claiming they attempted escape. Shepherd died at the scene.

Irving survived three bullets, was retried and convicted by an all-white jury in February 1952. Governor Leroy Collins commuted Irving's sentence in 1956. Irving served 19-and-a-half years before being paroled. He died a year later.

This travesty of justice could have been avoided. A physician examined the alleged victim, Norma Padgett, the morning of the alleged rape but the doctor's report was kept from the jury. That report will be made public on Sept. 7. And Charles Greenlee, Walter Irving and Samuel Shepherd will finally be vindicated.

This long-hidden report confirms the conclusion author Gary Corsair presents in Legal Lynching: The Sad Saga of the Groveland Four (Lulu, 2012), which is based on 11 years of exhaustive research.