Democrat Nikki Fried, the commissioner of agriculture and consumer services-elect, wants to pardon the members of the Groveland Four, four young African American men who were wrongly accused of raping a white woman in 1949, only to then be murdered, tortured or wrongfully imprisoned.
"The families have suffered, the legislature has spoken, and history shows that this was an undeniable injustice – racially motivated and a strain on the history of our state," Fried, the first Democrat elected to the state Cabinet since 2006, says in a statement. "We must look to correct this grave injustice and denounce the abuses of the past."
Fried's vocal push for the posthumous pardon comes after the Florida Legislature asked Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the other three members of the state Clemency Board to hasten the pardoning process.
It goes without saying that none of the members of the Clemency Board have moved to do so just yet. The board's last meeting has been indefinitely postponed and some members of the board, including current Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and state Attorney General Pam Bondi, will depart from office on Jan. 8.
Even so, Fried plans to bring up the Groveland Four's case during her Cabinet meeting.
"During the collegial discussions, I hope to convince my colleagues that a pardon is the right and just decision," Fried says in the statement.
Since one member of the Groveland Four was murdered by a mob before he could stand trial and face the bogus charges, Fried's action would force a vote to pardon the others. Yet it would take more than for a state pardon to make it official. The Clemency Board rules require the vote of the governor (that means Republican Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis) plus two members (such as Republican Attorney General-elect Ashley Moody and re-elect Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis) for the pardon to be complete.
Moody has hinted at her interest in issuing the pardon, telling Florida Politics
, "It's going to be one of the first things I look at when we get to work." However, it should also be noted that Moody went above and beyond to make clear that she'll be following in her predecessor Bondi's footsteps as the state's next high-ranking legal official.
In providing his two cents on the issue, Patronis, meanwhile, has managed to do his best mime impression by saying absolutely nothing.
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