BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - A Florida man serving out a 400-year sentence has just walked out of prison a free man after three decades thanks to a re-examination of his case.
"As prosecutors, our only agenda is to promote public safety in our community and to ensure that justice is served," Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor said in a statement. "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."
A county court convicted Sidney Holmes, 57, of aiding and abetting a 1988 robbery in Fort Lauderdale by driving the getaway vehicle. A fresh examination of the evidence found that the conviction largely rested on the testimony of eyewitness identification, which the court now decided was "flawed," CBS News reported.
Additionally, the brother of one of the victims of the robbery found that Holmes’ car — which would have been the getaway vehicle — had key differences from the vehicle described as helping in the robbery and likely was misidentified.
"There is no evidence tying Mr. Holmes to the robbery other than a flawed identification," Assistant State Attorney Arielle Demby Berger told reporters. "No fingerprints, no physical evidence. Nothing but one witness ID that we believe was a bad ID."
Sidney Holmes, 57, cries after he was exonerated in a Broward County courtroom on Monday, March 13, 2023. Holmes served more than 34 years of a 400-year sentence for a 1988 armed robbery. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/Tribune News Service
A two-and-a-half year investigation with the Broward State Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU) started when Holmes wrote to the Innocence Project of Florida to appeal his case, continuing to proclaim his innocence.
The organization said they found a number of "indicators of actual innocence," including the fact investigators disregarded Holmes’ whereabouts at the time of the crime, which had been verified by several family members.
Based on a review of the case, five of six independent panelists voted that Holmes was innocent and his conviction should be immediately overturned.
Holmes walked out of prison Monday to greet his family, with his mom, aunts and other family members waiting for him outside Broward County’s Main Jail. He had served the majority of his time at Everglades Correctional Institution in West Miami-Dade, the Miami Herald reported.
"I’m going to find something to eat," Holmes told reporters after the tearful reunion. "I can’t have hate. I just have to keep moving."
Holmes’ mother, Mary, was in tears and told reporters she was "so elated" and "kept praising God." She said she would take him out to eat shortly after his release.
The two robbers who committed the crime, including holding two people at gunpoint and stealing a car, remain unidentified.