Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) added his voice to calls for a formal pardon for the “Groveland Four,” a group of young Black men whose lives took tragic turns decades ago after they were falsely accused of raping a white woman.

The Florida Republican took to the Senate floor with his request on Tuesday to request Florida's new cabinet pardon the men when it takes office next year, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.

In his speech, which Rubio's office sent to Blavity, the senator said he feels it is “time for Florida to do the right thing for the Groveland Four.”

The Groveland Four consisted of Earnest Thomas, Samuel Shepherd, Walter Irvin and Charles Greenlee. In 1949, the four young men (Greenlee was just 16 at the time) were accused of raping a 17-year-old white woman and assaulting her husband in Groveland, Florida.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, law enforcement officials led by Sheriff Willis V. McCall arrested the Black men. Shepherd and Irvin — who were both Army veterans — and Thomas and Greenlee — who were both married — were beaten for confessions. Police reportedly found evidence that pointed to Shepherd and Irvin's innocence but forced them to confess anyway.

Despite his injuries, Thomas managed to escape from the jail where the men were being held. McCall headed up a deputized group of locals who hunted him down and killed him. McCall was also implicated in the fatal shooting of Shepard and the attempted fatal shooting of Irvin.

After the surviving men's first trial was decided against them, Thurgood Marshall led an NAACP defense that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Marshall won the men a new trial in a lower court, where they were again sentenced to prison.

Irvin was finally paroled in 1968 over questions about the fairness of his trials. Greenlee was paroled for similar reasons in 1962.

As The Associated Press reports, Florida's legislative branch has requested the executive branch pardon the Four. Current governor and soon-to-be junior senator from Florida Rick Scott has repeatedly refused to do so. Rubio said he wants a pardon to “give these men back their good name.”

“After 70 years, it is time for Florida to do the right thing for the Groveland Four,” Rubio said. “What we can do now, as a state in Florida, is seek the forgiveness of their families and of them for the grave injustice that was committed against them.”

The senator's speech came ahead of a big vote on criminal justice reform in the Senate. Rubio was one of only 12 senators who voted against the reform bill.

Nikki Fried, who will serve as Florida's next agricultural commissioner, said she plans on making the pardon a priority. It isn't clear whether her fellow cabinet members will support her in this endeavor. 

Blavitize your inbox! Join our daily newsletter for fresh stories and breaking news.

Now, check these out:

Florida Teacher Finds Box Of Possibly Uncounted Provisional Ballots In A Storage Room

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Demands Florida Schools End Racist Hair Policies

This Man Was Exonerated After 23 Years In Prison, But He Won't Receive Any Compensation