As the state of Florida reinvestigated the case and decided that he did not commit armed robbery, Sidney Holmes was released after serving more than 34 years of a 400-year prison sentence.
According to abcNEWS on Tuesday, a thorough re-investigation of the 1988 armed robbery case that led to Holmes’ conviction “raised reasonable doubts about his guilt,” according to Broward County State Attorney Harold F. Pryor.
According to Pryor, Holmes was arrested in October 1988 for reportedly being the driver for two unidentified individuals who robbed a man and a woman at gunpoint outside a business. Two unidentified individuals stole the automobile of the male victim.
He was found guilty by a jury in April 1989 and sentenced to 400 years in jail. Prosecutors had requested the judge to sentence him to 825 years in prison at the time.
Other than a mistaken identification of Holmes and the vehicle used in the heist, the Conviction Review Unit ruled that there is no evidence linking Holmes to the robbery.
The 57-year-old was exonerated on Monday after being wrongfully convicted of an armed robbery in Broward County in 1988. Following Circuit Judge Edward Merrigan’s order allowing Holmes to be released from prison, family members hugged each other and shared tears of joy in Courtroom 6870 of the Fort Lauderdale court complex.
Holmes was greeted and kissed by his mother, aunts, and other family members after being freed from the county’s Main Prison on Monday evening, wearing a short-sleeve button-up white shirt, blue pants, and brown shoes, in stark contrast to the bright orange prison uniform he wore in court. He had been transferred from the Everglades Correctional Facility in West Miami-Dade County.
Holmes told reporters he felt overwhelmed, but that he was clear on what was the first thing he wanted to do now that he is free.
“I’m going to find something to eat,” he said.
“I can’t have hate. I just have to keep on moving.”
“There is no evidence tying Mr. Holmes to the robbery other than a flawed identification,” Arielle Demby Berger, assistant state attorney for the 17th Judicial Circuit, told reporters outside the courtroom earlier in the day. “No fingerprints, no physical evidence. Nothing but one witness ID that we, your honor, believe was a bad ID.”
If the Lauderhill man hadn’t been exonerated, he would’ve likely spent the rest of his life in prison serving a 400-year sentence. He was 23 at the time of his arrest. Tears streamed down Mary Holmes’ face as she glanced at her son in the courtroom Monday. He was stunned as the judge overturned his conviction and sentence. “I was so elated,” Mary said.
“I just kept praising God.” She said she planned on taking him out to eat as soon as he was released. Get unlimited digital access Try 1 month for $1 CLAIM OFFER Despite decades of challenges, the family never lost hope, said Nicole Mitchell, Holmes’ sister. And in that time, she never let her brother lose faith. “It’s over,” she said. “It’s a long, long, long time overdue. A long awaited day.”
As the family fought for Holmes, they lost loved ones, including Holmes’ father and grandparents, said Jacqueline Dixson, a relative. But finally, his innocence came to light. “God has been with this family for the 34 years,” Dixson said. “We just thank God for allowing this opportunity to come forward.”