a.k.a.

Rape Accuser, Groveland Accuser, Southern Gem, Witch, She-Devil, Pure Garbage, The Worst Kind Of Trash

D.O.B./Age:

1930-1933

Location:

Tallahassee, Madison County, Lake County & Groveland, Florida (America)

Snitch Biography:

This case I'm going to get into is extremely depressing and controversial and it sheds light on the faulty incarceration practices of America's justice system as well as the dark racial history intertwined within the country at the time. With that being said, the Groveland Boys (or Groveland Four) were four young African American men who in 1949 were falsely accused of raping a 17 year old Caucasian girl and assaulting her husband on July 16, 1949, in Lake County, Florida. The accuser was identified as Norma Padgett Upshaw along with her husband who was referred to as Willie. The landmark set of legal cases from this incident dealt with racism and the right to a fair trial. The cases included a Klu Klux Klan insurgence within Florida at the time, all-white juries, rushed trials, random lynchings and disruptive mobs. It is commonly cited as an example of a miscarriage of justice in the United States legal system.

So lets detail what happened clearly:

Norma Padgett Upshaw was, at the time of the case, a 17 year old white girl. At the age of 16, she was married to her husband Willie Padgett; and both carried an on and off relationship. Willie, who was 22 when they got married, was considered physically abusive to Norma at the time of their relationship which resulted in their separation. On July 16, 1949, in hopes of getting back together, Willie made plans with Norma for a romantic night out at a square dance. He picks her up, they head to the dance, stay there for awhile, and than they go looking for food. While on road, their car breaks down and after arguing they separate. Norma walks four miles out and finds a place called Burtoft's Cafe. Lawrence Burtoft, the owner's son, invites her in and she tells him that she needs help. This was when Norma Padgett tells a story, whilst having coffee with Burtoft, accusing four black men of rape, testifying that she and her husband were attacked when their car stalled on a rural road near Groveland. At first Norma couldn't recognize her assailants, but after calling and talking with Sheriff William McCall she was able to identify each of them naturally. Each victim was essentially who Sheriff McCall considered troublemakers in his County. When word got out, the Klu Klux Klan, who were strong in their second chapter, strolled into the Groveland, Florida and terrorized the black communities within it; by burning houses and businesses. These four men were later identified as the "Groveland Four".

All four of the "Groveland Four" are identified as follows:

1. Charles L. Greenlee (born. 4 June 1933, Florida), was the son of Thomas H. and Emma Greenlee, who were born in Georgia and Alabama, respectively. His family was living in Columbia County when he was 2, but they had moved to Baker County by the time Charles was 12. His father worked in turpentine manufacturing in 1935 and later as a laborer, likely also in the timber industry. In 1945, Charles and four of his siblings were all in school. Greenlee had come to Groveland in July 1949 looking for work, as he was already married and his wife was pregnant.

2. Walter Lee Irvin (born. 8 May 1927, Gainesville, Florida), was living in Groveland when he registered for the draft in May 1945. He listed his mother Ellia Irvin as next of kin. He was working at the time for Apshawa Groves. He was recorded as 5'3" and weighing 105 pounds, and was described in his registration as "light brown", with brown eyes and black hair. He served in the Army, leaving with the rank of private.

3. Samuel Shepherd (born. 7 April 1927) was born in Fitzgerald, Georgia to Henry Shepherd and his wife Charlie M (Robinson) Shepherd, both of Georgia. His father was working in the lumber industry. The Shepherd family moved to Groveland, Florida, where his father achieved ownership of his own farm by clearing and developing former swamp land. When Samuel Shepherd registered for the draft in 1945, he was described as 5'8", 149 pounds, with a light brown complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He gave his father Henry Shepherd as next of kin. Shepherd and Irvin were friends and fellow veterans after World War II.

4. Earnest (also spelled as Ernest) Thomas (born. Florida), was married by July 1949 and living and working near Groveland. He had encouraged Greenlee to come there because of jobs related to the citrus groves.

Sheriff Willis McCall, referred to as Hatman by most and considered the most powerful man in town, was the local sheriff who overseen this case. Sheriff Willis McCall was known for supporting segregation, and keeping a strong hold on workers and against union organizing. He would heavily monitor the local black communities of Groveland; going as far as identifying each individual within it. The next day, 16 year old Charles Greenlee, Sam Shepherd, and Walter Irvin were arrested and put in jail pending trial. Charles Greenlee was already in another jail during this situation, however McCall picked him out to help fit Padgett's narrative. When the Klu Klux Klan begun to raid Groveland, Earnest Thomas visualized the destruction and skipped town to Madison County. This was when McCall led a Sheriff's posse of over 1000 armed men including Klan riders in hopes of finding Thomas. They eventually found him and took turns shooting him dead (approximately 400 shots were fired into him).

McCall had been out of the state when Greenlee, Irvin and Shepherd were arrested. He returned to Lake County the following day. As word spread about the accusation of rape and subsequent arrest of three of the "Groveland Boys", an angry crowd gathered at the county jail. The crowd demanded that McCall turn the men over to them. They turned on a black section of Groveland, a small town in south Lake County where two of the accused and their families lived. The men drove to Groveland in a caravan and once they arrived, shot into the tavern owned by the mother of Ernest Thomas, and hurled insults at any blacks they found. On the third day, fearing an escalation of mob and Ku Klux Klan violence, McCall and several prominent businessmen in the area warned most of the black residents to leave town until things settled down, which most did. McCall called in the National Guard, but pulled troops away from the black section of Groveland. After that, the mob moved in and proceeded to burn Shepherd's house and two others to the ground.

The Trials:

A grand jury indicted the three remaining rape suspects. Shepherd and Greenlee separately later told FBI investigators that the deputies beat them until they confessed. Irvin refused to confess, despite also being severely beaten. An FBI investigation concluded that Lake County Sheriff's Department deputies James Yates and Leroy Campbell were responsible for the beatings, and agents documented the physical abuse with photographs. The Justice Department urged the U.S. Attorney in Tampa to file charges, but U.S. Attorney at the time Herbert Phillips was reluctant, and failed to return indictments. Once the trial began, the prosecution did not bring the alleged confessions into evidence, fearing that a higher court would overturn guilty verdicts on the grounds of coerced confessions. Shepherd and Irvin claimed they were in Eatonville, Florida, drinking that night. Greenlee claimed to be nowhere near the other defendants on that night (he was in another jail for a loitering charge), and said that he had never met the other defendants until he was arrested and taken to the same jail in Tavares, Florida.

The physician who examined Norma Padgett was not called to the witness stand by the prosecution, and Judge Truman Futch did not allow the defense to call him. A forensics expert for the defense testified that the footprint casts were fraudulently manufactured by Deputy James Yates (Yates was indicted years later in another footprint case when another deputy admitted that Yates had fraudulently manufactured shoe-print evidence and an FBI investigation confirmed the plaster casts were faked. But before Yates could be tried, the statute of limitations had expired). The three men were each convicted. Shepherd and Irvin were sentenced to death. Greenlee, because of his age at 16, was sentenced to life in prison. Greenlee never appealed his conviction, as he faced receiving the death penalty in the future should another jury find him guilty again.

Supreme Court Intervenes and McCall's Justice:

In 1951, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Lake County's verdict and ordered a new trial on the grounds that it was an all-white jury. Justice Robert Jackson was more critical of the prejudicial pretrial publicity, which included McCall's bragging to the press about the prisoners' confessions (which were coerced by physical abuse.) In his concurring opinion, Justice Jackson wrote, "The case presents one of the best examples of one of the worst menaces to American justice."

McCall did not care about the Supreme Court's ruling so he decided to take matters into his own hands. In November 1951, McCall was transporting Shepherd and Irvin from Raiford to Tavares for the retrial, when he pulled his car off the state road leading into Umatilla, a small town in Lake County, alleging tire trouble. McCall swore in a deposition that Shepherd and Irvin attacked him in an escape attempt when he let them out of the car so that Shepherd could relieve himself. McCall claimed that he shot both the prisoners in self-defense. Shepherd was killed on the spot, but Irvin played dead and survived his wounds, despite being shot three times. When Deputy James Yates arrived at the scene, he observed that Irvin was still alive and shot him again, still surviving. The next day in his hospital room, Irvin, when speaking to FBI investigators and the press, that McCall shot them without provocation, as did Yates. Irvin claimed that Yates fired the sixth and last bullet into his neck, while Irvin was lying wounded on the ground.

The Lake County Coroner's inquest was never given the FBI reports. The coroner concluded that McCall had acted in the line of duty, and Judge Truman Futch claimed that he saw no need to impanel a grand jury. The re-trial of Irvin was moved from Lake County to Marion County (the next county to the north), because of the extensive publicity around the case. It began in February 1952, after Irvin had recovered from the shooting. Before the trial, Prosecutor Jesse Hunter offered Irvin a deal: if he pleaded guilty to the rape of Padgett, the state would not seek the death penalty. Irvin refused, saying that he did not rape her and would not lie. He was defended by national NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall (who later was appointed as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court). The trial attracted international coverage; newspapers in the Soviet Union pointed to the trial as evidence that American blacks were not free. The all-white jury found Irvin guilty, after deliberating only 90 minutes. Judge Futch sentenced Irvin to death. The case was appealed again, but the conviction was upheld by the Florida State Supreme Court. In early 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear the case. After LeRoy Collins was elected governor in 1954, questions were raised to him about Irvin's case, because he was considered moderate. He reviewed it and in 1955 commuted Irvin's sentence to life in prison, stating that neither trial proved conclusively that Irvin was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Greenlee was paroled in 1962 and lived until 2012, having a second child with his wife. Irvin was paroled in 1968. In 1970, he visited Lake County. He was found dead in his car, officially of natural causes.

Official Pardon:

The case was brought up again on the issue of pardoning the boys posthumously. After listening to the account of now, 80 year old Norma Padgett Upshaw, plead to not pardon; it was made official. On January 11, 2019, the Florida Board of Executive Clemency, with newly seated Republican Governor Ron DeSantis at the helm, agreed unanimously to pardon the Groveland Four. "Seventy years is a long time," DeSantis said before taking office. "And that's the amount of time four young men have been wrongly written into Florida history for crimes they did not commit and punishments they did not deserve."

That's history folks.

Physical Description:

Ethnicity/Race: Caucasian American
Height: 5'7''
Weight: 124 Lbs
Tattoos: Unknown
Clothing Style: 1930s Southern
Sexual Orientation: Rape Accuser

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