Florida Senate - 2017                        COMMITTEE AMENDMENT
       Bill No. SCR 920
                              LEGISLATIVE ACTION                        
                    Senate             .             House              
                  Comm: RCS            .                                
                  04/12/2017           .                                

       The Committee on Rules (Farmer) recommended the following:
    1         Senate Amendment (with title amendment)
    3         Delete everything after the resolving clause
    4  and insert:
    5         That we hereby acknowledge that Charles Greenlee, Walter
    6  Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas, who came to be known
    7  as “the Groveland Four,” were the victims of gross injustices
    8  and that their abhorrent treatment by the criminal justice
    9  system is a shameful chapter in this state’s history.
   10         BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we hereby extend a heartfelt
   11  apology to the families of Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin,
   12  Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas for the enduring sorrow
   13  caused by the criminal justice system’s failure to protect their
   14  basic constitutional rights.
   15         BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature urges the
   16  Governor and Cabinet to expedite review of the cases of Charles
   17  Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shephard, and Ernest Thomas as
   18  part of the Governor’s and Cabinet’s constitutional authority to
   19  grant clemency, including granting full pardons.
   20         BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be
   21  provided to the Governor, the Attorney General, the Chief
   22  Financial Officer, the Commissioner of Agriculture, and the
   23  families of the Groveland Four as a tangible token of the
   24  sentiments expressed herein.
   26  ================= T I T L E  A M E N D M E N T ================
   27  And the title is amended as follows:
   28         Delete everything before the resolving clause
   29  and insert:
   30                    Senate Concurrent Resolution                   
   31         A concurrent resolution acknowledging the grave
   32         injustices perpetrated against Charles Greenlee,
   33         Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas, who
   34         came to be known as “the Groveland Four”; offering a
   35         formal and heartfelt apology to these victims of
   36         racial hatred and to their families; and urging the
   37         Governor and Cabinet to perform an expedited clemency
   38         review of the cases of Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin,
   39         Samuel Shephard, and Ernest Thomas, including granting
   40         full pardons.
   42         WHEREAS, on July 16, 1949, a 17-year-old white woman and
   43  her estranged husband reported to police that she had been
   44  abducted at approximately 2:30 a.m., driven approximately 25
   45  minutes to a dead-end road, and raped by four black men after
   46  the car in which she and her estranged husband were riding broke
   47  down on a rural road outside Groveland in Lake County, and
   48         WHEREAS, Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, and Samuel
   49  Shepherd were charged with rape, while Ernest Thomas was
   50  presumed guilty of the crime, and
   51         WHEREAS, Charles Greenlee, who was 16 years old in July
   52  1949, was being detained 20 miles away by two retail store night
   53  watchmen at approximately the same time at which the alleged
   54  attack occurred, and
   55         WHEREAS, the estranged husband stated on two separate
   56  occasions that Charles Greenlee was not one of the young men
   57  present when his car broke down on July 16, 1949, and
   58         WHEREAS, Charles Greenlee denied that he and Ernest Thomas
   59  ever met Samuel Shephard, Walter Irvin, the alleged victim, or
   60  her estranged husband, and
   61         WHEREAS, Walter Irvin and Samuel Shepherd, both World War
   62  II veterans, acknowledged that they had stopped by the broken
   63  down vehicle to see if they could assist the couple, but denied
   64  any involvement in the alleged rape, and
   65         WHEREAS, after their arrest that evening, Charles Greenlee,
   66  Walter Irvin, and Samuel Shepherd were severely beaten in the
   67  basement of the county jail; Charles Greenlee and Samuel
   68  Shepherd were coerced into confessing to the crime; and Walter
   69  Irvin steadfastly maintained his innocence despite repeated
   70  beatings, and
   71         WHEREAS, Ernest Thomas, understanding the racial realities
   72  of the time and the danger he was in, escaped Lake County before
   73  law enforcement could locate him, and
   74         WHEREAS, after being hunted for more than 30 hours through
   75  at least 25 miles of swampland in Madison County by an armed,
   76  deputized posse of approximately 1,000 men with bloodhounds,
   77  Ernest Thomas was killed in a hail of gunfire as he slept beside
   78  a tree before he could answer questions or declare his
   79  innocence, and
   80         WHEREAS, the three surviving men, Charles Greenlee, Walter
   81  Irvin, and Samuel Shepherd, were tried and convicted in the
   82  case, with Charles Greenlee sentenced to life imprisonment due
   83  to his young age and Walter Irvin and Samuel Shepherd sentenced
   84  to death, and
   85         WHEREAS, the judge who presided at the men’s trial denied
   86  the men’s attorneys access to an exculpatory medical report of
   87  the alleged rape victim and barred testimony regarding the three
   88  men being repeatedly and brutally beaten by law enforcement
   89  officers, and
   90         WHEREAS, Thurgood Marshall, then-Executive Director of the
   91  NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, appealed the
   92  convictions of Walter Irvin and Samuel Shepherd to the United
   93  States Supreme Court, which unanimously overturned the judgments
   94  on April 9, 1951, and ordered a retrial, and
   95         WHEREAS, 7 months later, on November 6, 1951, as Walter
   96  Irvin and Samuel Shepherd were being transported from Florida
   97  State Prison in Raiford to Tavares Road Prison for a pretrial
   98  hearing, Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall shot both men on a
   99  dirt road leading into Umatilla, claiming the handcuffed men
  100  were trying to escape, and
  101         WHEREAS, Samuel Shepherd died at the scene as a result of
  102  his wounds, immeasurably compounding the suffering of his
  103  hardworking, close-knit family whose home had been burned to the
  104  ground by a mob in the days immediately following reports of the
  105  alleged rape, and
  106         WHEREAS, during an interview with an investigator sent by
  107  then-Governor Fuller Warren, Walter Irvin stated that, after he
  108  had been shot twice by Sheriff McCall, Deputy Sheriff James L.
  109  Yates shot him through the neck as he lay on the ground
  110  handcuffed to the deceased Samuel Shephard, and
  111         WHEREAS, the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered a
  112  .38-caliber bullet directly beneath a blood spot marking where
  113  Walter Irvin lay, providing forensic corroboration of Walter
  114  Irvin’s statement that he was shot while lying on the ground,
  115  and
  116         WHEREAS, Walter Irvin, who pretended to be dead, survived
  117  despite a delay in treatment caused by the hospital’s refusal to
  118  transport him in an ambulance due to his race, and
  119         WHEREAS, Walter Irvin was retried and convicted a second
  120  time for the alleged rape and was sentenced to death, despite
  121  the fact that a former Federal Bureau of Investigation
  122  criminologist stated that he believed forensic evidence had been
  123  manufactured by law enforcement, and
  124         WHEREAS, Walter Irvin’s sentence was commuted to life in
  125  prison in 1955 by then-Governor LeRoy Collins after the
  126  prosecuting attorney, who twice convicted Walter Irvin, stated
  127  in a letter that not only was a life sentence more appropriate,
  128  but that Walter Irvin maintained his innocence even after being
  129  shot when he believed himself to be dying, and
  130         WHEREAS, Walter Irvin was found dead in his car while
  131  visiting Lake County for a funeral in 1969, 1 year after being
  132  paroled by then-Governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr., and
  133         WHEREAS, Charles Greenlee, who was paroled in 1960 at the
  134  age of 27, died in April 2012 at the age of 78, and
  135         WHEREAS, the people of this state recognize that no action
  136  on the part of the Legislature can make right the egregious
  137  wrongs perpetrated against Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin,
  138  Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas and their families by the
  139  criminal justice system, law enforcement agencies, and
  140  individuals whose actions were fueled by racial hatred, and
  141         WHEREAS, the families of Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin,
  142  Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas have demanded that steps be
  143  taken to clear the men’s names, NOW, THEREFORE,