A man who was sentenced to 400 years in prison for an armed robbery more than 30 years ago is now a free man after being wrongfully convicted.
Sidney Holmes walked out of a Florida prison on Monday into the waiting arms of his family, WFOR reported.
The now-57-year-old man spent 34 years behind bars before a review of his conviction for what prosecutors said at the time was his role in an armed robbery.
Holmes said he was innocent in the June 1988 hold-up where a man and woman were robbed outside of a convenience store in Broward County, Florida.
Holmes, then 23, was arrested in October of that same year and convicted the next year of being the driver for two gunmen who robbed the two people and stole the man’s car, WFOR reported.
Holmes was sentenced to 400 years in prison but prosecutors at the time asked for 825 years, ABC News reported.
Holmes had been sentenced as a habitual offender after having pleaded guilty to armed robbery in two incidents in August 1984.
“The reason for my recommendation and an exceedingly high number of years is to ensure that he won’t be released from prison while he’s breathing,” prosecutor Peter Magrino said at the time, ABC News reported. He didn’t want life because Holmes would have been eligible for parole after 25 years.
Holmes maintained his innocence and asked to have his case looked at by the Broward State Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit in 2020, claiming “factual” evidence, USA Today reported.
The Conviction Review Unit during its investigation found that Holmes had an alibi and that there were several issues with his being called a suspect, WPLG reported.
Holmes was a suspect because of an eye witness that was the main evidence against him during his trial. But during a review of Holmes’ conviction, it was found that it was “likely a misidentification” because of how the photo and live lineup were conducted at the time and that based on how they’re done now, the past way of conducting the lineup is unreliable, WFOR reported.
The driver of the car did not get out of the vehicle during the robbery, USA Today reported.
The car that Holmes was accused of driving was common and was likely also misidentified, WFOR reported.
The car was described as an Oldsmobile Cutlass with a tan top and a hole in the trunk, CNN reported. Holmes owned a brown Cutlass.
The brother of one of the victims saw Holmes’ car, thinking it was the one involved in the robbery and wrote down the license plate, which was eventually given to police, according to USA Today.
Finally, there was no evidence outside of the misidentification linking him to the crime, WFOR reported.
“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, according to WPLG.
“I never lost hope and always knew this day would come,” Holmes said according to a statement from the Innocence Project of Florida, CNN reported.