Florida Man Exonerated After Serving 34 Years Of 400-Year Sentence For Armed Robbery
“I can’t have hate, just have to keep moving,” Sidney Holmes says of his wrongful conviction in the 1980s.
A man sentenced to 400 years for an armed robbery he didn’t commit recently was exonerated after he already served 34 years in a Florida prison, officials announced.
“I can’t put it into words,” Sidney Holmes, 57, told WPLG of his wrongful conviction being overturned following a Broward State Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit (CRU) investigation. “It’s overwhelming.”
“I know this day was gonna come sooner or later, and today is the day,” he said after his March 13 release.
On June 19, 1988, two still-unidentified men robbed a man and woman at gunpoint outside the One Stop store in unincorporated Broward County and stole the man’s vehicle. Almost four months later, on Oct. 6, police accused then-23-year-old Holmes of being the getaway driver for the robbers and arrested him.
A jury convicted Holmes as a habitual offender the following April (he had previously confessed to two August 1984 armed robbery incidents.) According to the CRU, Peter Magrino, the prosecutor on the case, said at the time that he recommended an “exceedingly high number of years” for Holmes “to ensure that he won't be released from prison while he's breathing.”
In November 2020, Holmes contacted the State Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit about his conviction, claiming he had an alibi and was innocent of the allegations against him.
“Prosecutors with the Conviction Review Unit (CRU) determined that Holmes had a plausible claim of innocence because of how he became a suspect and because of the precarious eyewitness identification that was the principal evidence against him at trial,” the Broward County State Attorney’s Office said.
Working with the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF), the CRU reinvestigated the case and “concluded that there was reasonable doubt as to Holmes’ guilt and that it is highly likely that he is factually innocent of the armed robbery,” the state attorney’s office said.
Among multiple other issues in the case, the CRU and IPF determined a civilian investigation of the crimes launched by one of the two victim’s brother “caused Holmes to become the only suspect, based on some similarities between his extremely common Oldsmobile and the car used by the robbers, overlooked differences between the two cars and [what] was likely a misidentification of the vehicle.”
A similar misidentification of Holmes as a suspect was “partly due to the photo and live lineup practices commonly used by law enforcement at the time,” officials said, noting that beyond the flawed identification there was “no evidence tying Holmes to the robbery.”
According to the state attorney’s office, the robbery victims both told the CRU they believed Holmes should not be incarcerated, officials said.
The attorney’s office also noted the deputies who originally investigated the case “expressed shock that Holmes was sentenced to and had served so much time in prison.”
“Ultimately, all of us came to the same conclusion that this man was wrongfully convicted and this man should not have been in prison, and we needed to get him out right now,” Broward State Attorney Harold Pryor said.
Despite his decades-long ordeal, Holmes told WPLG, “With the Christian faith I have, I can’t have hate, just have to keep moving.”