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Florida Pardons Four Black Men Wrongfully Convicted Of Rape In 1949

After 70 years, the state finally decided to clear "The Groveland Four."

The state of Florida is attempting to make amends.

Gov. Ron DeSantis posthumously pardoned Samuel Shepherd, Walter Irvin, Earnest Thomas and Charles Greenlee Friday (Jan. 11), decades after the court system destroyed their lives

On July 16, 1949, Shepherd, Irvin, Greenlee and Thomas, known as “The Groveland Four,” were convicted of gang raping a 17-year-old married white woman who claimed that she was attacked on the side of a road in Groveland, Fla.

“For seventy years, these four men have had their history wrongly written for crimes they did not commit,” DeSantis said in a statement.

“As I have said before, while that is a long time to wait, it is never too late to do the right thing,” he continued. “I believe the rule of law is society’s sacred bond. When it is trampled, we all suffer. For the Groveland Four, the truth was buried. The Perpetrators celebrated. But justice has cried out from that day until this.”

The accuser, Norma Padgett, and her husband, Willie, claimed that she had been gang raped after their car broke down. There was no evidence to prove that a sexual assault occurred, and prosecutors were accused of manipulating and withholding crucial information in the case.

Irvin and Shepherd, both 22, were friends and World War II veterans. They acknowledged asking the couple if they needed help after spotting them on the side of the road. Greenlee, a 16-year-old newlywed, was “being detained 20 miles away” from the location where the Padgetts claimed the rape occurred. He was at a train station waiting to go job hunting with Thomas when police arrested him. The teen denied that he and Thomas were involved in the alleged rape.

Nonetheless, Irvin, Shepherd and Greenlee were all charged with rape. Thomas, also a newlywed at the time, was “presumed guilty” but fled before police could arrest him. A violent posse of more than 1,000 men went out to search for him. They caught up with Thomas and killed him in a “hail of gunfire” as he slept next to a tree. His death was ruled a justifiable homicide.

The others were arrested and severely beaten by police, subsequently forcing them into false confessions, with the exception of Irvin who maintained his innocence. Another member of the group had his home burned down by an angry mob.

An all-white jury convicted the men of rape and sentenced Irvin and Shepherd to death. Greenlee was sentenced to life in prison because he was a minor.

Thurgood Marshall, then an Executive Director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, appealed the ruling. A retrial was ordered in April of 1951. Seven months later, Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall shot Shepherd and Irvin during a prison transfer. McCall claimed that he gunned them down because they were attempting to escape. Shepherd died instantly.

Irvin survived after being shot in the neck while laying on the ground, handcuffed to Shepherd.

Irvin was refused medical attention because of his race. He was later retried in court, reconvicted and sentenced to death. The sentence was eventually commuted to life in prison. Irvin was paroled in 1969. He was found dead in his car a year after his release.

Greenlee, the last living member of the four, was paroled in 1960. He died in 2012, at age 78.

Norma Padgett, now 86 years old, opposed the men receiving pardons and maintains her story.

The pardons were approved nearly a year after state legislators issued a resolution urging the governor to move forward with the process. Lawmakers also offered a “heartfelt apology” to the families of Greenlee,  Irvin, Shepherd and Thomas “for the enduring sorrow caused by the criminal justice system’s failure to protect their basic constitutional rights.”

See more on the case below.

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Louisville Cop Involved In Breonna Taylor’s Death Defends Actions, Calls Protestors “Thugs”

In an email sent to fellow officers on Tuesday (Sept. 22), Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly of the Louisville Metro Police Department, defended the events that led to the death of Breonna Taylor and called out the city’s treatment of officers, amid Black Lives Matter protests. Mattingly blasted Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, former Louisville FBI agent Amy Hess, and LMPD police chief Steve Conrad, and brazenly referred to protestors as “thugs” who “get in your face and yell, curse and degrade you.”

He went on to claim that demonstrators have thrown bricks and urine at police, and that officers are expected to “do nothing.” The authenticity of the email was confirmed by Mattingyl’s attorney, CNN reports

“It goes against EVERYTHING we were all taught in the academy. The position that if you make a mistake during one of the most stressful times in your career, the department and FBI (who aren’t cops and would piss their pants if they had to hold the line) go after you for civil rights violations,” Mattingly wrote in seeming reference to Taylor’s death, which is being investigated by the FBI. “Your civil rights mean nothing, but the criminal has total autonomy.

“We all signed up to be police officers. We knew the risks and are willing to take them, but we always assumed the city had our back,” he continued. “We wanted to do the right thing in the midst of an evil world to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

Taylor was killed during a March 13 raid led by Mattingly. The 26-year-old EMT was sleeping in bed when officers began firing into her residence without warning. The incident stemmed from an alleged drug investigation involving Taylor’s ex-boyfriend. Taylor was hit at least eight times. Her current boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was unaware that police were raiding the home and fired back at officers reportedly wounding Mattingly. Walker was indicted for attempted murder of a cop, but the charges were later dropped.

Mattingly, Myles Cosgrove, and fired LMPD officer Brett Hankison, are under investigation over Taylor’s death. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has yet to announced whether or not charges will be brought against them, but it appears that they may not face criminal reprimand as the city of Louisville issued a state of emergency ahead of an announcement on the case, which could come as early as Wednesday (Sept. 23).

Later in the rant, Mattingly claimed that police aren’t racist. “We as police DO NOT CARE if you are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, what you identify as…this week. We aren’t better than anyone. This is not an us against society, but it is good versus evil.”

Speaking of the pending investigation over Taylor’s death he added, “I don’t know a lot of you guys/gals but I’ve felt the love. Regardless of the outcome today or Wednesday, I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night. It’s sad how the good guys are demonized, and criminals are canonized.

“Put that aside for a while, keep your focus and do your jobs that you are trained and capable of doing,” he advised. “Don’t put up with their sh*t, and go home to those lovely families and relationships.”

Read the full email below.

New: LMPD Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly (who is being investigated as part of Breonna Taylor’s case) sent an email to around 1,000 officers at 2am that calls protestors thugs, complains about the government enforcing civil rights violations, and claims this is "good versus evil” pic.twitter.com/VcuyPDP790

— Roberto Aram Ferdman (@robferdman) September 22, 2020

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WNBA Player Maya Moore Marries Wrongfully Convicted Man She Helped Get Out Of Prison

When WNBA star Maya Moore first met her now husband, Jonathan Irons, their relationship was strictly platonic. Things changed after she helped to get his wrongful conviction overturned, and the happy couple recently tied the knot.

“We wanted to announce today that we are super excited to continue the work that we are doing together, but doing it as a married couple,” Moore told Good Morning America on Wednesday (Sept. 16). “We got married a couple months ago and we're excited to just continue this new chapter of life together.”

Catch us tomorrow on @GMA with @RobinRoberts! #winwithjustice pic.twitter.com/0z1B1RRS2b

— Maya Moore (@MooreMaya) July 2, 2020

Irons was 16 years old when he was tried as an adult and falsely convicted by an all white jury and sentenced to 50 years for a burglary and shooting. He maintained his innocence throughout, but he would have never been convicted had the case been handled properly. Aside from being wrongfully identified in a lineup, fingerprint evidence that could have proved his innocence was withheld from his lawyers. After serving 23 years for a crime he did not commit, Irons' conviction was overturned in March.

Moore, 31, has known Irons, 40, since she was 18 years old. The two met through a prison ministry program and their relationship slowly transitioned from a friendship to romance. Irons confessed his love for Moore while incarcerated at Missouri's Jefferson City Correctional Center. “I wanted to marry her but at the same time protect her because being in a relationship with a man in prison, it's extremely difficult and painful. And I didn't want her to feel trapped and I wanted her to feel open and have the ability any time if this is too much for you, go and find somebody. Live your life. Because this is hard.”

He popped the question in their hotel room following his prison release. “It was just me and her in the room and I got down on my knees and I looked up at her and she kind of knew what was going on and I said, ‘will you marry me,’ she said, ‘yes.’”

Moore, a small forward for the Minnesota Lynx, is taking a break from basketball and has been working alongside her husband to encourage people to vote. The newlyweds also plant to advocate for others who have been wrongfully convicted.

See more on their love story in the video below.

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Louisville Reaches $12 Million Settlement With Family Of Breonna Taylor

It’s been six months since Breonna Taylor was killed by Louisville police officers while sleeping in her own home. The officers involved in her death, Jonathon Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, have yet to be arrested, but a monetary agreement has been reached to settle a civil lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family.

The city will pay Taylor’s family $12 million in addition to implementing policy reform measures, Mayor Greg Fischer announced on Tuesday (Sept. 15).

“I cannot begin to imagine Ms. Palmer’s pain,” Fischer said of Taylor’s mother, Tameka Palmer. “And I am deeply, deeply sorry for Breonna’s death. Although these steps, including policy changes, do not change the past, I hope this brings some measure of peace.”

Fischer noted that Taylor’s death “ignited” a local and national movement “for racial justice sending thousands into our streets and in cities all across the country and the world — all crying for justice for Breonna.” Taylor’s death has “triggered a renewed commitment to addressing structural and systematic racism” in Louisville and around the country, said Fischer.

“Justice for Breonna means that we will continue to save lives in her honor,” said Taylor’s mother, Tameka Palmer. “No amount of money accomplishes that, but the police reform measures that we were able to get passed as a part of this settlement mean so much more to my family, our community, and to Breonna’s legacy. We know that there is much work still to be done and we look forward to continuing to work with community leaders, the mayor’s office, and other elected leaders to implement long-term sustainable change to fight systemic racism that is plaguing our communities.”

The multi-million dollar settlement is the latest step that Louisville has taken in wake of Taylor being killed by police. In June, the Louisville city council passed “Breonna’s Law” banning no-knock warrants, like the one used to violently raid Taylor’s home on March 13. Police claim that the raid stemmed from a drug investigation that reportedly involved Taylor’s ex-boyfriend who did not live at the residence and had already been arrested.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing Taylor’s family, called the $12 million settlement a step in the right direction. “This will bring progress and reform out of this tragedy to protect other Black lives,” he tweeted.

Today, we got some #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor! Along with a $12 million civil settlement, we secured comprehensive police reform in Louisville. This will bring progress and reform out of this tragedy to protect other Black lives. pic.twitter.com/DyilAkmWag

— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) September 15, 2020

As part of the settlement, Louisville Metro Government agreed to a list of changes including community related policy programs, search warrant reforms, and police accountability reforms.

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