A Florida man sentenced to 400 years in prison for armed robbery in 1988 was allowed to walk free after prosecutors deemed he had been wrongfully convicted. He served roughly 34 years of his sentence.
Sidney Holmes, now 57, was exonerated March 13 after an “intensive two-and-a-half year collaborative investigation” that determined the circumstances surrounding Holmes’ initial conviction gave rise to reasonable doubt, Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) announced in a press release. The IPF further elaborated that the evidence against Holmes was so weak that the Broward State Attorney’s office would not have brought charges against him if the crime had occurred today.
A man who has served more than 34 years of a 400-yr sentence is released after a reinvestigation by the Conviction Review Unit and the Innocence Project of Florida raised reasonable doubts about his guilt, Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor announced.https://t.co/X5H9trulRT pic.twitter.com/sXqbOjGY7i
— Broward State Attorney’s Office (@BrowardSAO) March 13, 2023
Holmes was arrested Oct. 6, 1988, after being accused of being the driver for two unidentified assailants who reportedly robbed a man and woman outside of a store at gunpoint. The male victim’s car was also stolen in the incident, a press release from the Broward State Attorney’s office stated.
“Mr. Holmes became a suspect through a strange set of circumstances,” according to the IPF. A description of the perpetrator’s car led investigator’s to Holmes even though there were key differences in his vehicle to the one used in the robbery. Holmes also had provided a strong alibi as to his whereabouts during the incident — a Father’s Day celebration spent with multiple members of his family, the IPF explained in the press release.
Though Holmes was identified by one of the victims in a second photo lineup, his picture was not selected by either victim in the first photo lineup, the press release continued.
“There was no physical or scientific evidence, nor any corroborating witnesses linking Mr. Holmes to the crime,” according to the IPF. (RELATED: Idaho Will Pay People Wrongfully Convicted $62,000 For Each Year Spent In Jail)
Arielle Demby Berger, the assistant state attorney in charge of the Conviction Review Unit who reviewed Holmes’ case, called his exoneration “crucial to ensuring justice.”
“Our job protects the community because having an innocent person incarcerated is not only morally and ethically wrong but it is dangerous. If the wrong person is incarcerated, the true perpetrator is free to commit more crimes,” Berger stated, according to the Broward State Attorney’s press release.
“We have one rule here at the Broward State Attorney’s Office – do the right thing, always. As prosecutors, our only agenda is to promote public safety in our community and to ensure that justice is served. I commend the victims, witnesses, and law enforcement officers for their candor and assistance in reinvestigating a crime that occurred more than 34 years ago,” Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor stated. (RELATED: Man Released From Jail After 32 Years For Murder He Didn’t Commit)
Holmes, after being wrongfully imprisoned for decades, told the IPF he “always knew this day would come” and that he “never lost hope.”
“I cannot wait to hug my mother in the free world for the first time in over 34 years,” Holmes said.