New evidence could clear 'Groveland Four' in 1949 rape case

Updated:

Loading

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - The families of four black men nicknamed the "Groveland Four" are demanding an apology for their convictions in a 1940s rape case that made national headlines.

Three of the four men were found guilty of raping a white teen in Okahumpka in 1949, but their families said a recently unsealed FBI document should clear their names.

Wade Greenlee's brother, Charles Greenlee, was a member of the infamous Groveland Four. He was charged with the rape of a 17-year-old woman in Lake County in 1949.

"I was small," Wade Greenlee said. "I was about 6 or 7 years old when this happened, but I remember."

A posse killed one of the suspects, and an all-white jury convicted the other three. Two of those defendants were later shot to death by County Sheriff Willis McCall, who claimed they had attacked him.

But new information has now surfaced in the case that could point to the group's innocence.

"The evidence shows that it is clear these men are innocent and did not commit this crime," said attorney Paul Perkins Jr.

Author Gary Corsair said a federal file includes an interview with a doctor who examined the victim, Norma Padgett, and Corsair insists the physician found no evidence of a sexual assault.

Now the families want an apology from the state and the sheriff's office.

"We're going to assign someone to look into this and this new information,, and we'll respond once we've been able to do so," said Lt. John Herrell.

Charles Greenlee was 16 when he was convicted. He was released from prison in 1960.

His daughter, Carol Crawley, waited until she was grown to ask her father what happened that day.

"It was time to ask my father, point blank, did you do this?" said Crawley. "He said, 'No. I did not do that.'"

A letter is being sent to Florida Gov. Rick Scott asking him to re-examine the case.