Groveland Four will have to wait for pardon

Clemency meeting called off because of George H.W. Bush memorial

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A scheduled meeting Wednesday of Florida’s clemency board -- made up of Gov. Rick Scott and state Cabinet members -- was called off because of the death of former President George H.W. Bush and a memorial service in Washington, D.C. 

The cancellation leaves uncorrected an injustice 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.

Three others, including 16-year-old Charles Greenlee, were tried and convicted. 

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

The last scheduled clemency meeting under Scott’s administration was canceled. 

NAACP Chapter President Dalaitre Hollinger said 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.