Man sentenced to 400 years for 1988 armed robbery exonerated, released

Man sentenced to 400 years for 1988 armed robbery exonerated, released

A Florida man is serving a 400-year sentence for armed robbery He got out of jail A judge on Monday vacated his sentence based on new findings that the case against him was deeply flawed.

Sidney Holmes, 57, spent more than 34 years behind bars for a 1988 carjacking near Fort Lauderdale. After his release, he hugged his mother outside the Broward County Main Jail.

“I’ll never give up hope,” Holmes told reporters. “I knew this day was going to come sooner or later, and today is the day.”

Sydney Holmes hugs relatives Monday outside the Broward County Main Jail in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., (NBC Miami)

In 2020, Holmes contacted the Broward State Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit that he was indeed innocent. That got the ball rolling.

Prosecutors now strongly believe he did not, citing a flawed focus on his car, a biased witness identification process and a tenuous alibi.

“The State Attorney’s Office will not charge him today based on this information,” the Broward County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement Monday.

Broward County State’s Attorney Harold F. Pryor praised those who participated in the reinvestigation of the case and said in the statement, “We have a rule here at the Broward State Attorney’s Office – always do the right thing.”

A normal car

Holmes’ ordeal began in the summer of 1988 when a man spotted him behind the wheel of a brown 1970s-era Oldsmobile Cutlass in South Florida. Three weeks earlier, the man’s brother and a woman were robbed by people in similar cars, according to a Conviction Review Unit final memo on the case provided by county prosecutors.

The man told his brother, the victim about the car, and the victim told police. According to the memo, police quickly zeroed in on Holmes, who was convicted in 1984 for his role as the driver in two armed robberies.

The victim of a June 19, 1988 robbery said an Oldsmobile pulled up behind his car outside a convenience store and two men approached and took it at gunpoint, the review said. A driver remained behind the wheel of the suspects’ vehicle, he said.

Both carjacking victims described the man behind the wheel — who prosecutors later said was Holmes — as relatively short and heavy, the memo said. Holmes was 6 feet, 183 pounds at the time, it said.

The vehicle, believed to be a 1970s Oldsmobile Cutlass, was described as having a hole where its trunk lock might have been, according to the memo. Holmes’ car had a trunk lock, it said.

The Oldsmobile Cutlass was often a bestseller in the United States from 1976 to 1983, a historian at the RE Olds Transportation Museum told investigators reviewing the case.

The victim’s brother had been the target of a similar robbery earlier in the day, he said, and the car was the same, the memo said.

Six of Holmes’ men were willing to testify that he was celebrating Father’s Day at his parents’ South Florida home when the crime took place, the memo said.

‘There is no evidence’

Reviewers of the case, including the Conviction Review Unit, the Innocence Project of Florida and an independent review panel, also found flaws in the witness identification process.

The victim was unable to identify the suspect after looking through a book of 250 possible suspects and a six-photo lineup including Holmes, they said.

After that, the victim picked Holmes out of another photo lineup, pointed to him in a live lineup of suspects and identified him as the driver in court that day, according to the review. Holmes was the only person shown to be victimized more than once, it said.

A contemporary expert condemned the process, saying it was tainted by Holmes’ repeated appearances, according to the review unit.

The woman in the car could not identify any suspects, investigators said.

There was no basis for the prosecution of Holmes, who engaged in a reinvestigation and review concluded. He cooperated with investigators because he believed in his innocence, they said in the memo.

“There is no evidence linking Holmes to the robbery,” the Broward State Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

400 years sentence

Prosecutors sought 825 years because of Holmes’ prior convictions for armed robbery and because he refused to name nonexistent co-conspirators, reviewers said.

The judge thought 825 years was excessive, so he went with 400, the memo said.

A sheriff’s deputy dispatched to the robbery, Kenneth Smith, said he barely remembers the case because there was so much crime at the time, according to the memo.

When he was told of Holmes’ 400-year sentence, Smith said: “I’m absolutely shocked. He got it for this case?”

Last year, both victims told the unit they believed Holmes should be released from prison, the memo said.

Holmes said he was not holding a grudge against those who arrested and prosecuted him.

“I can’t hate,” Holmes said outside the jail. “Just gotta keep moving.”

This article was originally published

#Man #sentenced #years #armed #robbery #exonerated #released

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button