Author of Groveland Four book urges Scott and Clemency Board to pardon them

"My position has always been these people were framed," author Gilbert King said.
Published Dec. 7, 2018|Updated Dec. 7, 2018

The author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Groveland Four said  Thursday that Rick Scott and his Clemency Board should pardon the men, who were falsely accused of rape in Florida in 1949 and then murdered or tortured.

"I don't think there's a political price to pay for this," said Gilbert King, whose 2012 book, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, won the Putlizer for nonfiction. "I don't see this as a political issue. I see it more as a right versus wrong and correcting a grave injustice."

Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam have just days before they leave office to pardon the men, which has led to renewed questions about why they haven't done so.

Last year, the Legislature voted unanimously on a resolution asking the Clemency Board expedite the pardon process for the men.

The resolution called the Groveland Four "victims of gross injustices and that their abhorrent treatment by the criminal justice system is a shameful chapter in this state's history."

King, who followed the events in the Legislature last year, called the unity between Republicans and Democrats "inspiring."

"I know they had a competition in the Florida Legislature to see who could get more cosponsors," King said. "It was a pretty remarkable moment, because you had these two parties come together and recognize this is the right thing to do."

King's book also highlighted how Thurgood Marshall, working for the NAACP, appealed three of their trials to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he would later become the first black justice.

The court overturned their convictions, but two of the men were shot by Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall. The man who survived, Walter Irvin, would be convicted again, partly by evidence that was found to be fabricated.

"My position has always been these people were framed," King said. "There was no crime."