Lawyers for Arthur Rankin, David Blunk, Thomas Hamilton and William Slocum said on Wednesday that the three remained the subject of an active prosecution for the rape of a 15-year-old black girl on May 3, 1949, a crime the four men say they never committed. The state filed a notice of appeal, formally conceding it could not prove the innocence of the men who are now in their 70s.
The state is dropping the charges, the defense attorney Brenda Meyers said, after a weeklong evidentiary hearing here. The judge in the case, Joseph Blunt, said on Wednesday that he would file a dismissal of the charges and promptly dismissed the charges. In Florida, such hearings typically happen before charges are dropped.
“The state of Florida was proven on Friday to be the most ruthless of the worst when it comes to trying to rape innocent people,” Ms. Meyers said on Wednesday.
The state of Florida is now dropping the charges against the men in the rape of a white woman on May 3, 1949.
The Groveland Four, as they became known, were all wrongly accused of raping the 15-year-old Mary Emma Thames when she was hitchhiking home from church to watch a baseball game in Lake County, Fla., more than 60 years ago. The state has long maintained that the four men were guilty. The case was the focus of two films, written by Florida native Paula Hawkins, a 2015 Oscar nominee for “The Girl on the Train,” and “The New Negro,” a book written by Liliana Castillo, based on a 2013 essay by Essence Magazine.