Rosewood Victims vs State of Florida
March 24, 1994
SPECIAL MASTER'S FINAL REPORT
The Honorable Bo Johnson
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Suite 420, The Capitol
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1300
RE: HB 591 by Representatives De Grandy and Lawson
Claim of Arnett Goins, Minnie Lee Langley, et al. v. State of Florida
FINDINGS OF FACT: THIS IS AN EQUITABLE CLAIM SEEKING $7.2 MILLION
FOR DAMAGES RESULTING FROM THE 1923
DESTRUCTION OF ROSEWOOD, FLORIDA.
This report is based upon the record presented to House and
Senate special masters in the course of legislative hearings
conducted pursuant to Rule 6.63, Rules of the Florida House of
Representatives. The hearings began on March 4, 1994 and
continued on a weekly basis, concluding on March 18, 1994.
The claimants in this matter are former residents, and
descendants of former residents of Rosewood, Florida, who
contend that certain acts or omissions of law enforcement and
other officials of Levy County and the State of Florida, resulted
in the destruction of their community, the deaths of their
relatives, and the loss of their property, and inflicted on them
both physical and emotional harm for which they should be
compensated by the State of Florida. The claimants are
represented by the law firm of Holland and Knight.
The State takes the position that the claims presented in this
matter are without legal basis, that the evidence now available
does not support a finding that acts or omissions of law
enforcement officials caused the damages to the claimants, and
that the claims should be barred by the statute of limitations.
The State further contends that bringing these claims at this time
prohibits the reasonable defense of the allegations since the
officials charged are now deceased and cannot be called to
testify as to these events. The State of Florida is represented by
the Office of the Attorney General.
Because the events relating to this claim occurred more than 71
years ago, the record presented in the legislative hearings is
comprised of media accounts of the events, incomplete public
records, stories related by former residents and repeated to
descendants, and the distant recollections of elderly witnesses
not readily subject to corroboration and cross-examination. As
will be discussed below, if these proceedings were conducted in
a judicial forum, the principles of law dictated by the rules of
evidentiary hearsay and the statute of limitations would preclude
consideration of these claims. In an equitable claim bill
proceeding, however, these principles do not, as a matter of law,
restrict the legislature's consideration of these claims.
Accordingly, this report is intended to provide the legislature
with a description of the events that occurred in and around
Rosewood, Florida in 1923, from the available remaining
sources of evidence as presented at the legislative hearings, with
the understanding that at this time conclusive findings of fact as
to all relevant issues do not appear possible.
The events which occurred at Rosewood in 1923 were widely
reported at that time not only by the Florida press, but also by
the national media. In February of 1923, a month after the
violence subsided, a special grand jury was convened in Levy
County to investigate these matters. The grand jury returned no
indictments, and except for newspaper accounts, no records of
the grand jury proceedings remain. It does not appear that any
other official investigation of Rosewood was undertaken. Over
the years following these events, brief references to the events
of Rosewood were made in a few historical studies of racial
violence; however, no researched report of these matters was
published until July 25, 1982, when a comprehensive article by
an investigative journalist, Gary Moore, appeared in The
Floridian magazine, a Sunday supplement to the St. Petersburg
Times. Mr. Moore's article prompted a December 13, 1983 CBS
60 Minutes report; however, no other official investigation was
conducted at that time.
In 1993 this matter was brought before the Florida Legislature
when HB 813 by Representatives DeGrandy and Lawson, and
SB 1452 by Senator Jones were filed seeking compensation for
persons injured by the violence at Rosewood. In response to the
issues raised by HB 813, the Speaker determined that a thorough
study of the events surrounding the destruction of Rosewood
should be conducted in an objective scholarly manner, and
accordingly, after the 1993 Session, an academic research team,
which included distinguished professors from Florida State
University, Florida A&M University, and the University of
Florida was commissioned to research the Rosewood incident
and report its findings to the Legislature. The academic
research team was chaired by Dr. Maxine Jones of the Florida
State Department of History.
The academic research team conducted research during the
legislative interim, and on December 22, 1993 issued its report
entitled A Documented History of the Incident Which Occurred
at Rosewood, Florida in January 1923. Exceptions to the
accuracy, findings, methodology, and thoroughness of the report
were expressed by investigative journalist, Gary Moore, and in
response to Mr. Moore's concerns, an extensive review of the
academic study team's report was conducted under the authority
of Dr. Richard Greaves, Chairman of the Florida State
University Department of History. With minor reservations, the
Review of the Rosewood Project endorsed the findings and
methodology of the report of the academic study team. In
response to the review, Mr. Moore submitted his detailed
analysis of the review to the Legislature. All of the academic
research studies, reports, reviews, and appendices, as well as
Mr. Moore's responses, were received and have been made part
of the record in the legislative proceedings.
Upon review of the record presented, and consideration of the
sworn testimony, the following description of the events which
occurred in Rosewood in 1923 emerges. In January of 1923
Rosewood was a small, mostly African-American community of
approximately 120 residents located on the Seaboard Air Line
Railroad in western Levy County, nine miles east of Cedar Key.
Today the site of Rosewood is marked on State Road 24. At one
time the community had a timber mill, a post office, several
stores, a depot and hotel; however, by 1923 the cedar wood had
been harvested, and the sawmill operations moved to Sumner,
a somewhat larger community, three miles west of Rosewood.
The black residents remaining at Rosewood earned a living by
working at the Cummer sawmill in Sumner, trapping and
hunting, and vegetable farming. In addition, several of the black
women of Rosewood worked in domestic capacities for the
white residents of Sumner. The main store of Rosewood was
owned and operated by a white man named John Wright.
In 1923 the black community of Rosewood consisted of
approximately twenty families, many of whom were closely
related through marriages. Some of the black families owned
their homes as well as other property in the area. The
community had a one-room school, at least two churches, and
a masonic lodge. The railroad depot remained, but it does not
appear that there was a regularly scheduled stop at Rosewood at
that time. There was no history of racial tension at Rosewood,
and the record indicates that prior to 1923 the black and white
communities had a generally amiable relationship.
On Monday, January 1, 1923, in Sumner, Florida, Mrs. Frances
Taylor, a twenty-two year old white housewife, alleged that a
black man had entered her home and assaulted her. Mrs. Taylor,
who was visibly bruised, told her neighbors that while her
husband James Taylor was at work at the sawmill, an
unidentified black man had assaulted and robbed her. The
specific nature of the assault is not apparent from the record;
however, the white community believed there had been a sexual
assault, although it does not appear that Mrs. Taylor was ever
examined by a physician. After repeating her allegations, Mrs.
Taylor then collapsed and was taken to a neighbor's home.
A contradictory account of this event circulated in the black
community. According to Mrs. Sarah Carrier, a black woman
from Rosewood who did laundry for Mrs. Taylor, and Mrs.
Carrier's granddaughter, Philomena Goins, who accompanied
Mrs. Carrier to the Taylor home on the morning of January 1,
1923, a white man had visited Mrs. Taylor that day, and left
shortly before Mrs. Taylor made her allegations. The black
community believed that Mrs. Taylor had a romantic
relationship with this unidentified white man, that they had
quarrelled, and that this white man was actually responsible for
Mrs. Taylor's injuries.
In response to Mrs. Taylor's allegations, a group of white men,
mainly residents of Sumner or workers at the Cummer sawmill,
came together to search for the perpetrator. At about this time
word reached Sumner from Levy County Sheriff Robert Elias
Walker that a black convict named Jesse Hunter had escaped
from a work crew doing road construction near Otter Creek.
Jesse Hunter became the focus of the search. Later that day,
Sheriff Walker sent for bloodhounds, and the trail of the fugitive
was followed from behind the Taylor house in Sumner, leading
the party of men toward Rosewood.
The group first came across Aaron Carrier, a black man from
Rosewood who apparently was coerced into implicating Sam
Carter, a forty-five year old black man who did some blacksmith
work. Sheriff Walker intervened during the interrogation of
Aaron Carrier and apparently sent him to the jail in Bronson for
safekeeping. The dogs followed the trail to Sam Carter's house,
and the search party became convinced that Sam Carter had
placed the fugitive in his wagon and assisted the fugitive in an
escape. The men seized Sam Carter and strung him up over a
tree limb in an effort to make Carter reveal the place where he
had taken the fugitive.
The role of the law enforcement officers in the search is unclear.
The record indicates that Sheriff Walker was informed and
probably sent for the bloodhounds from Ft. White. There is also
testimony that the deputy sheriff assigned to western Levy
County, Clarence Williams, who also served as a quarterboss at
the Cummer sawmill, was involved in searching for the fugitive;
however, it does not appear that either the sheriff or the deputy
were actually members of the search party that seized Sam
Of particular interest in this regard is the testimony of Ernest
Parham, who at that time was a nineteen year old resident of
Sumner, working at the general store. Mr. Parham testified that
after the news of Mrs. Taylor's assault on January 1, 1923
spread, tension was very high in Sumner. At the general store
where he worked, they sold so much ammunition that the store's
owner decided to hide his supplies and tell customers that they
were sold out. Later that evening, Mr. Parham closed the store
and noticed that deputy sheriff Williams, who had walked to
Rosewood, had left his car parked outside. Mr. Parham drove
the Williams' car by a back road from Sumner to Rosewood and
located the deputy near Rosewood. At that time noise from a
crowd could be heard from down the road. Mr. Parham left the
deputy and walked down to where the crowd was gathered, and
observed that a group of white men, many of whom he knew,
had strung Sam Carter up on a tree limb in an attempt to force
him to reveal information about the fugitive. Mr. Parham
intervened in the situation, and the crowd of men let Carter
down. Carter then took them to a place down the road where he
said he let the fugitive off; however, when the dogs failed to
pick up the scent, one of the men in the crowd shot and killed
Sam Carter. The crowd then dispersed, and Mr. Parham returned
The body of Sam Carter was left on the road that night and
apparently law enforcement officials did not discover the body
until the following morning of Tuesday, January 2, 1923. Later
that same day a coroner's jury inquest verdict signed by L.L.
Johns as Justice of the Peace determined:
"We the Jury after the examination of the said Sam
Carter who being found lying Dead, find that the said
Sam Carter came to his Death by being shot by
Unknown Party so say we all."
It does not appear that any further criminal investigation was
conducted into the circumstances of the death of Sam Carter.
The search for Mrs. Taylor's assailant continued. On Thursday,
January 4, 1923, word reached Sumner that the man they sought
was being protected by Sylvester Carrier in Rosewood. A group
of white men went to the Carrier home that evening. Minnie Lee
Langley and Arnett Goins, claimants in this case, were children
present at the Carrier home the night of January 4, 1923, and
testified to the events of that evening. The children had been
told that trouble was expected and they were gathered together
with other relatives at the Carrier home for their protection.
They were taken to an upstairs bedroom. A group of white men
approached the house and called for Sarah Carrier to come out.
She did not respond. The white men then came to the porch.
The white men shot and killed a dog tied in front of the house.
According to the testimony, one of the white men, C.P. "Poly"
Wilkerson, a former quarterboss from Sumner, kicked in the
door, and was immediately shot and killed by Sylvester Carrier.
A second white man Henry Andrews tried to enter the house
and was also shot and killed by Sylvester Carrier. The remaining
white men retreated, and gunfire was exchanged. During the
ensuing gunfire Sarah Carrier was shot and killed. The white
men apparently ran out of ammunition, and during the respite
the children were taken out of the house by older relatives, and
escaped into the woods of Gulf Hammock.
It does not appear that any law enforcement officials were
among the group at the Carrier home on the night of January 4,
1923. Ernest Parham testified that deputy Williams was at the
hotel in Sumner that evening. Mr. Parham specifically
remembered that deputy Williams was discussing the ongoing
events and stated that "All hell's breaking out in Rosewood."
There is nothing in the record to indicate the whereabouts of
Sheriff Walker on that night.
In the morning of January 5, 1923 the bodies of Poly Wilkerson,
Henry Andrews, Sarah Carrier, and another black man, reported
to be Sylvester Carrier were found at the house. There is some
dispute as to whether Sylvester Carrier was actually killed at
Rosewood. His family believes that he escaped and members
received Christmas greetings from him for many years after the
shootings at Rosewood.
After the killing of Poly Wilkerson and Henry Andrews, the
violence escalated. Groups of white men from the surrounding
areas, and some reportedly from other states, came to
Rosewood. During the following days every black residence was
burned. The black community fled to the woods. Two more
deaths of residents of Rosewood were reported. Lexie Gordon,
a woman of mixed color, was sick with typhoid fever and
unable to leave Rosewood. When her home was set on fire she
went out the back door and was shot and killed. James Carrier,
the grandfather of Minnie Lee Langley, was reported to have
been forced to dig his own grave and was then shot and killed.
Another black man, Mingo Williams, was reportedly shot while
chopping down a tree twenty miles away by a group of the
white men going to Rosewood.
Many of the white residents of the area came to the assistance
of the black community. John Wright, the white owner of the
general store in Rosewood, hid some of the children at his
house, and arranged for a railroad car to pick up the women and
children who had escaped into Gulf Hammock. Margaret
Cannon testified that her father, Morris Cannon, a deputy sheriff
in Levy County at the time, went into the woods and found the
black woman and children and brought them to the train. They
were taken to Gainesville. The black residents of Rosewood did
Several years later the Cummer sawmill in Sumner burned. The
company opened a new mill in Lacoochee, Florida, in Pasco
County, and many of the Rosewood families moved to that area.
Others dispersed to Jacksonville and Miami, and a few others
moved out of state. Some of the property of the Rosewood
residents apparently was lost to taxes, but there are a few
records that indicate some property was later sold.
At this time it is difficult to determine the role of law
enforcement officers, and other local and state officials,
regarding their conduct during the Rosewood violence. Media
accounts state that the Governor, Cary Hardee, was aware of the
events, but had gone hunting on the afternoon of January 4,
1923. It also appears that Sheriff Walker had informed the
Governor that there was no need to call in National Guard
troops. Although the record indicates that the National Guard
had been mobilized in preceding years to keep the peace during
civil disturbances, the Guard was not called to Rosewood. It
further appears that the Sheriff of Alachua County organized a
posse to come to Levy County to assist in keeping order, but the
role of the Alachua Sheriff in these events is not clear from the
record. Sheriff Walker resigned July 8, 1924 after the
Rosewood incident, and was replaced by L.L. Johns, the former
Justice of the Peace, who signed the coroner's verdict regarding
the death of Sam Carter.
On January 29, 1923 the Governor ordered that a special grand
jury investigate the violence at Rosewood. The grand jury was
presided over by Judge A.V. Long of the Eighth Judicial Circuit.
George DeCottes, the state attorney for the Seventh Circuit in
Deland was appointed as prosecutor. On February 12, 1923 the
grand jury convened in Bronson. There are no records of the
grand jury. The newspaper accounts state that thirteen witnesses
testified on February 13, 1923, and more witnesses were
scheduled for the following day. Examination of witnesses
ended on February 14, 1923, and on February 16, 1923 the
grand jury stated that they were unable to find any evidence
upon which to base indictments.
No charges were ever brought by the State of Florida against
any person for the assault on Frances Taylor, for the killing of
Sam Carter, for the deaths occurring at the Carrier home on the
night of January 4, 1923, for the deaths of Lexie Gordon, James
Carrier, or Mingo Williams, or for any acts of arson and theft
which occurred at Rosewood, Florida.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW: The initial question of law is the applicability of section
11.065(1), Florida Statutes, which provides:
No claims against the state shall be presented to the
Legislature more than 4 years after the cause for relief
accrued. Any claim presented after this time of limitation
shall be void and unenforceable.
It is a long-established rule of law that the act of one legislature
cannot bind a future legislature. Kirklands v. Town of Bradley,
104 Fla. 390, 139 So. 144 (1932); Tamiami Trail Tours v. Lee,
142 Fla. 68, 194 So. 305 (1940). This principle has been
specifically applied to the statute of limitations for legislative
claim bills. Attorney General's Opinion 55-82. As stated by the
Attorney General, the statute of limitations is an expression of
legislative policy, and not a prohibition against the consideration
of claims against the state. Accordingly, as a matter of law,
should the legislature determine that an equitable basis exists for
the consideration of these claims, then there is no legal
restriction on the power of the legislature to enact a claim bill
under these circumstances.
In this matter, the primary claimants are now elderly former
residents of Rosewood who as children were displaced from
their homes due to the destruction of their community. They
have a very limited education. Their testimony reflects a
profound fear of reprisal and a distrust of state officials. In light
of their personal experiences and the racial attitudes at the time,
their testimony is substantiated. There is a question as to
whether the fears of the claimants of coming forward are
justified especially after the 1983 national broadcast of the
Rosewood events. The State contends that at least since 1983
there was no justifiable impediment to the bringing of these
claims to the legislature. Moreover, the State contends that
under the principles of laches, Cone Brothers Construction v.
Moore, 193 So. 288 (Fla. 1940), the claimants have delayed too
long, that the matters asserted are not subject to a safe
conclusion as to the truth thereof, and the State at this time is
unable to defend against these allegations.
In balancing the equities of whether to proceed to consider the
claims of these claimants, against the obvious difficulties of the
State to completely respond to these claims after so many years
have passed, it is important to distinguish these proceedings
from proceedings at law. As a matter of law, the record does not
demonstrate that the claimants could overcome the State's
objections if these proceedings were judicial in nature. Claim
bill proceedings, however, address the "moral obligations of the
state" and are matters purely within the prerogative of the
legislature. Gamble v. Wells, 450 So.2d 850 (Fla. 1984);
Dickinson v. Board of Public Instruction, 217 So.2d 553, 560
(Fla. 1968). Under these circumstances, neither the provisions of
section 11.065(1), Florida Statutes, nor the principles of laches
should be construed to preclude the legislature's consideration of
these claims to determine whether there is a moral obligation on
the part of the State of Florida which should be addressed.
Claimants seek compensation for damages resulting from
property loss and for emotional trauma. As to property loss,
Florida law in 1923, as well as today, recognizes that
compensation is required when state action effects a taking of
property which was set forth in Article XVI, section 29 of the
Florida Constitution of 1885 and is now incorporated in Article
X, section 6 of the Florida Constitution as revised in 1968.
While the State of Florida did not affirmatively take title to
property in Rosewood, the displacement of the Rosewood
population was done with the knowledge and assistance of law
enforcement officers. In a case involving the claims of Japanese-
Americans who were displaced from their homes and property
during World War II, the court held that the claimants were
entitled to compensation for their property loss. Hohri v. United
States, 768 F.2d 227 (D.C. Cir. 1986). The court stated:
Given the alleged damage to the appellant's real and
personal property directly caused by the evacuation
program, there is no question that appellants have stated
a claim cognizable under the Takings Clause.
Id. at 242. The court went on to hold that this claim was
compensable regardless of whether the government took title to
the property. See also United States v. General Motors Corp.,
323 U.S. 373 (1945).
Although there are obvious distinctions between the federal
evacuation program of Japanese-Americans and the displacement
of the residents of Rosewood, in both instances the evacuees
were forced to leave their homes and were unable to attend to
their property. The residents of Rosewood did not return due to
fear, and it appears that many simply abandoned their property
because the area was not secured for their safety.
In this respect the State cites the case of Monarch Insurance
Company of Ohio v. District of Columbia, 353 F. Supp. 1249
(D.C. D.C. 1973), affirmed, 497 F.2d 684 (D.C. Cir. 1974), cert.
denied, 419 U.S. 1021 (1974), where the court dismissed
constitutional and statutory claims brought against the United
States, the District of Columbia and local law enforcement
officials for property damages resulting from riots which
occurred after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The
court in Monarch held that the decisions regarding the
deployment of law enforcement in riot control situations was a
discretionary function that did not subject the government to
liability under the federal Tort Claims Act. Similarly, Florida
law provides that discretionary governmental functions are not
subject to liability. Commercial Carrier Corp. v. Indian River
County, 371 So.2d 1010 (Fla. 1979). As recognized by the Monarch court, however, if the claim arises from a
property, then there is a cognizable cause of action. 353 F.
Supp. at 1252.
Moreover, the United States Supreme Court in the case of
National Board of Young Men's Christian Assn's v. United
States, 395 U.S. 1511 (1969) held that persons whose property
was damaged as a result of rioting after occupation of the
buildings by federal troops had no Fifth Amendment claim for
compensation. However, as Justice Harlan stated:
...it is for Congress, not this Court, to decide the extent
to which those injured in the riot should be compensated,
regardless of the extent to which the police or military
attempted to protect the particular property which each
395 U.S. at 96. Similarly, while it may be argued that there
would not exist a judicially cognizable claim under the takings
provisions of the federal and state constitutions, it is nonetheless
clear that the legislature has the authority to determine the
extent of compensation in this matter.
In relevant circumstances, Congress enacted the Civil Liberties
Act to compensate Japanese-Americans for property damages
resulting from the federal evacuation policy during World War
II. 50 App. U.S.C. s. 1989a(a). The federal law enacted in 1988
recognized that "a grave injustice was done both to citizens and
permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry by their forced
relocation and internment during World War II," and attempted
to make amends by issuing a formal apology and $20,000 to
each Japanese intern. Jacobs v. Barr, 959 F.2d 313, 314 (D.C.
Cir. 1992). The federal law sets forth eligibility standards and
provides for time limitations in which eligible individuals must
present their claims to the Attorney General.
Under these circumstances, it is appropriate to compensate the
claimants in this matter for the property losses sustained by the
destruction of Rosewood. While there is not a showing of
participation on the part of governmental agents in the
destruction of the property, there is no question that
governmental officers were aware of the violent situation that
existed during the entire week of January 1, 1923, that
government officers assisted in the evacuation of the Rosewood
residents, that after the destruction the government did not
secure the area, that the residents of Rosewood sustained
property damage, and that the justice system did not redress the
injuries sustained. This is particularly evident when the
legislative hearings 71 years later are uncovering evidence
identifying the perpetrators of the criminal acts that occurred in
Rosewood. In light of these circumstances, and the authorities
cited above, the Rosewood families sustaining property damage
should be compensated.
As to the emotional and mental anguish damages sought by the
claimants, there is no clear remedy. In 1923 the State had not
waived sovereign immunity; accordingly, a state cause of action
based upon principles of tort law does not arise. See Article III
section 22 of the 1885 Constitution which is presently set forth
in Article X section 13 of the Florida Constitution. Under
section 870.04, Florida Statutes, which also was in force at the
time, a sheriff has the duty to order rioters to disperse, but it
does not appear that the statute gives rise to a civil cause of
action. Cleveland v. City of Miami, 263 So.2d 573 (Fla. 1972).
The federal civil rights acts, section 42 U.S.C. s. 1983 et seq.,
were in existence, and require a showing that the acts which
resulted in personal injury to the claimants were under color of
law and done with the intent to deprive the claimants of their
constitutional rights. Washington v. Davis, 426 U.S. 229 (1976).
As indicated above, there is evidence that governmental officials
knew of the potentially violent situation at Rosewood, but there
is no indication of direct participation of governmental officers
in the events leading up to the destruction of Rosewood. The
most persuasive evidence of governmental responsibility is the
failure of any showing that the criminal acts committed at
Rosewood were reasonably investigated and redressed by the
State of Florida. The record reflects that the death of Sam
Carter, who was killed in front of many residents of Sumner,
clearly was not properly investigated, and even today there is at
least one witness available to testify to the circumstances of that
crime. Any records of the investigation conducted by the special
grand jury were lost, but it is difficult to understand the grand
jury's determination that there was insufficient evidence to proceed on any of the criminal acts when 71 years
witnesses describing the events and identifying the perpetrators
are appearing at legislative hearings.
While this evidence may not be sufficient to sustain a cause of
action at law, it does compel the conclusion that a moral
obligation exists on the part of the State of Florida to remedy
this matter. This conclusion appears to be in keeping with the
equitable claim bills redressing "moral obligations" that the
legislature has previously enacted. Gamble v. Wells, supra. In
Gamble the legislature awarded $150,000 to a child who was
physically and emotionally damaged due to the failure of the
State to provide adequate foster care. In upholding the
constitutionality of Chapter 80-448, Laws of Florida, the Florida
Supreme Court in Gamble stated:
This voluntary recognition of its moral obligation by the
legislature in this instance was based on its view of
justice and fair treatment of one who had suffered at the
hands of the state but was legally remediless to seek
450 So.2d at 853.
This principle is equally applicable here. In the Rosewood
claim, although the claimants are now elderly, the damage they
sustained was as children, and while ascertaining an amount of
damage for emotional harm is subjective, the Gamble case
provides guidance as to prior legislative enactments in this
regard. Accordingly, it appears that those Rosewood claimants
who as children were subjected to the violence and forced to
leave their homes should each be awarded compensation in the
amount of $150,000.
In the final analysis, the legal authorities cited above support the
conclusion that this is an equitable matter that is addressed to
the sound discretion of the Florida Legislature. The federal and
state cases demonstrate that the legislature's responsibility is to
determine whether there is a moral obligation on the part of the
State of Florida to compensate the claimants. Although the
evidence presented may not be sufficient to establish an action
at law, it nonetheless is clear that government officials were
responsible for some of the damages sustained by the claimants,
if not by the failure to provide reasonable law enforcement prior
to the destruction of Rosewood, then surely in the failure to
reasonably investigate this matter, to bring the perpetrators to
justice and to thereafter secure the area for the safe return of the
displaced residents. Under these circumstances, the claimants
have met the test for an equitable claim bill by showing that a
moral obligation exists to redress their injuries.
COLLATERAL SOURCES: Claimant Minnie Lee Langley received $1,000 for the motion
picture rights to her story.
ATTORNEYS FEES: The law firm of Holland & Knight is representing the claimants
on a pro bono basis.
RECOMMENDATION: For the above reasons, I recommend that HB 591 be amended
1. The bill should direct the Florida Department of Law
Enforcement, or other appropriate law enforcement officials, to
conduct a complete investigation of this matter including
interviewing the available witnesses to determine if any criminal
proceedings may still be pursued.
2. A fund should be established to compensate the Rosewood
families who can demonstrate a property loss as a result of the
displacement of the Rosewood residents.
3. The elderly claimants who sustained emotional trauma as a
result of the destruction of Rosewood and the evacuation of the
residents should each be compensated in the amount of
4. A state university scholarship fund should be established for
the families and the descendants of the Rosewood residents.
As AMENDED, I recommend HB 591 be reported
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