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Wrongful conviction: U.S. man serving 400 years exonerated

A man serving more than 34 years of a 400-year sentence for armed robbery was released from a Florida prison this week after prosecutors dismissed charges against the wrongfully convicted man.

“I never gave up hope and I always knew this day would come,” said Sidney Holmes, now 57, when he learned he was free to go. Statement from the Florida Innocence Project, who worked on his case. “I can’t wait to hug my mother in the free world for the first time in 34 years.”

Holmes contacted the Broward County State’s Attorney’s Sentencing Review Unit in November 2020 to say he was innocent of the 1988 crime, the office said.

Holmes was arrested in October 1988 in connection with the June armed robbery of two people at an unincorporated convenience store in Broward County, west of Fort Lauderdale, according to the state attorney’s office.

Accused of being the driver of two unidentified men in the robbery, he was convicted by a jury in April 1989 and sentenced the following month. according to to the state prosecutor’s office.

The review unit and the Florida Innocence Project launched a reinvestigation of Holmes’ case, and their findings “raise reasonable doubt as to his guilt,” the office said.

A “strange series of circumstances” led to Holmes becoming a suspect, the Florida Innocence Project said. One of the two victims described the vehicle used in the robbery as a maroon Oldsmobile Cutlass with a tan and holes in the trunk.

Weeks later, the victim’s brother saw a maroon Cutlass driving down the road and reported the license plate number. That car was registered to Holmes, the Innocence Project said.

Holmes had an alibi and his car had key differences from the criminals’ car, his lawyers said.

“There was no physical or scientific evidence, and no corroborating witnesses, linking Mr. Holmes to the crime,” the Innocence Project said. Holmes was identified by one of the victims in a second photo shoot, although he was not identified during the initial lineup, attorneys said in a statement.

Based on a recent review of the case, prosecutors “determined that Holmes had a credible claim of innocence because of how he became a suspect and because of a sketchy eyewitness identification that was key evidence against him at trial,” the state attorney’s office said. .

“The Broward State Attorney’s Office would not have charged Holmes if the case were presented today,” Conviction Review Unit. wrote in his closing memorandum on the case.

On Monday, a judge approved a request by the state’s attorney’s office and the Innocence Project to overturn Holmes’ conviction and sentence, and prosecutors dismissed the charges, the state’s attorney’s office said.

Holmes walked out of the Broward County Detention Center that afternoon and fell into the arms of his mother and family in an emotional embrace.

“We have one rule here at the Broward State’s Attorney’s office. do the right thing, always,” said Broward County State’s Attorney Harold F. Pryor, adding that he praised the “honesty and helpfulness” of the victims, witnesses and officers. Restatement of crime.

Seth Miller, executive director of the Florida Innocence Project, Holmes’ co-defendant, thanked Pryor and the conviction review unit for “looking at old cases objectively” and “giving Sidney her life back.”

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