This is the moment a tearful mother hugged her exonerated son who was found innocent 34 years into a 400-year prison sentence.
Sidney Holmes, 57, was convicted in April 1989 and held in the Broward County Main Jail, Florida until his overdue release on Monday.
He found himself linked to an armed robbery after he was seen driving a vehicle similar to one used in a gunpoint carjacking weeks prior.
But since contacting the State Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit to say he was ‘factually innocent’ in 2020, prosecutors now believe he was not responsible for the crime.
Upon his release, Holmes said he does not hold a grudge: ‘I can’t have hate,’ he said. ‘Just have to keep moving.’
— Gabby Arzola (@GabrielleArzola) March 14, 2023
Freed Sidney Holmes cried as he was told he had been exonerated for a crime in 1988
He was seen looking down as he heard his 400-year sentence would be dropped
Holmes was arrested after he was seen driving a brown Oldsmobile Cutlass in South Florida in the summer of 1988.
Three weeks prior, the witness’ brother was robbed by people driving a similar car.
The car stopped behind the victim’s car, when two people got out and held up the car at gunpoint.
A driver – not matching Holmes’ description – was seen to remain in the car.
Video captures the moment Sidney Holmes left the court and hugged his mother
Holmes had been convicted for his role as the driver in two armed robberies in 1984, and police pursued him as a suspect.
This was in spite of registered differences between Holmes’ car and the one used in the robbery.
Six people were willing to testify that Holmes had been at his parents’ home that day.
The victim also did not at first identify Holmes as the driver from a six-photo lineup.
In a later photo lineup, the victim did choose Holmes. He was reportedly included in several lineups until identified.
The woman with the victim was also unable to identify Holmes as the driver.
Holmes was nonetheless charged and given a 400-year sentence.
Prosecutors at first asked for 825 years due to the previous convictions of armed robbery in 1984.
Holmes, now 57, is interviewed by reporters as he leaves the court following the decision
Prosecutor Peter Magrino said at the time: ‘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.’
He said he did not ask for a life sentence as Holmes would have been eligible for parole after 25 years.
They also cited the fact he had not named the men who held the car up at gunpoint as justification for the longer sentence.
Holmes was ultimately convicted in a jury trial in April 1989.
The Broward State Attorney’s Office concluded that ‘there is no evidence tying Holmes to the robbery.’
The Conviction Review Unit found the witness identification was likely a ‘misidentification’, due in part to unreliable lineup practices at the time.
Both victims also stated last year that they believed Holmes should be released.
Sidney Holmes is pictured smiling after the decision to exonerate him for a crime he likely did not commit in 1988
Mugshot shows exonerated man Sidney Holmes, who was sentenced to 400 years in 1989
While exonerees are meant to be provided with $50,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment, only ten of 84 statewide have been compensated, the Innocence Project of Florida claims.
On 23 August 2021, Tony Hopps was freed from Hardee Correctional Institution in Bowling Green, Florida.
He had been incarcerated for 31 years before the CRU lead attorney Teresa Hall determined that the State could no longer stand by its convictions of armed burglary and armed robbery of an elderly couple in 1990.
Deemed to have been wrongfully imprisoned, Mr Hopps was reported to have cried and said, ‘I have tried to get people to listen to me all these years and finally Teresa Hall from the State Attorney’s Office took my case seriously.’