Florida man serving 400-year prison sentence freed after evidence clears him of crime

After spending over 34 years behind bars, Sidney Holmes finally tasted freedom when the state of Florida conducted a comprehensive re-investigation into his 1988 armed robbery case and found no evidence linking him to the crime other than a faulty identification and the car used in the robbery.

The Broward County State Attorney, Harold F. Pryor, said that the reinvestigation had raised reasonable doubts about Holmes’ guilt, leading to his exoneration and release on Monday.

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Holmes, now 57, was initially arrested in October 1988 for allegedly being the driver for two unidentified individuals who robbed a man and a woman at gunpoint outside a store. A jury found him guilty in April 1989 and sentenced him to a staggering 400 years in prison, with prosecutors asking for 825 years to ensure that he was not released from jail while still alive.

Prosecutor Peter Magrino said at the time that he did not request a life sentence since, back then, Holmes would have been eligible for parole after 25 years.

However, Holmes had been sentenced as a habitual offender because he had previously been convicted of armed robbery in August 1984 for two instances in which he pleaded guilty and quickly confessed. Despite this, Holmes never claimed to know who the robbers were in the 1988 case, in contrast to his earlier robbery conviction, where he made allegations against the other individual involved.

In 2020, Holmes contacted the State Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU) and claimed that he was “truly innocent” of the armed robbery of two people outside a convenience store. The CRU re-examined the case and found no evidence of Holmes’ involvement in the crime, leading to his release.

Pryor said that in the Broward State Attorney’s Office, they have one rule: always do the right thing. As prosecutors, their primary purpose is to promote public safety and ensure that justice is done. He applauded the victims, witnesses, and law enforcement personnel for their cooperation in re-investigating a crime that took place over 34 years ago.

Despite his decades of wrongful imprisonment, Holmes remains positive and faithful. He said that given his Christian beliefs, he cannot harbor hatred and that one just needs to keep going. His exoneration serves as a reminder that the criminal justice system is not infallible and that it is crucial to always seek the truth, no matter how long it takes.