African-American serving 400-year prison sentence walks free after being exonerated of robbery charge
A man who has been serving more than three decades of a 400-year sentence for armed robbery has been released after his acquittal.
Sydney Holmes, 57, was found guilty in April 1989 of the 1988 robbery in which he was accused of being the getaway driver.
According to prosecutors, Holmes was convicted as a getaway driver for two men who robbed two people at gunpoint and stole one of the victim’s cars on June 19, 1988 west of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The two robbers are still unknown.
Holmes contacted the attorney general’s Convictions Review Unit (CRU) in 2020 and told investigators he was innocent. The CRU then determined that Holmes had a reasonable claim of innocence.
During CRU’s review of the Holmes case, it determined that the identification of Holmes as an eyewitness during the initial investigation was likely incorrect and that there was no evidence connecting Holmes to the theft other than the incorrect identification.
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“We have one rule here at the Broward State Attorney’s Office – do the right thing, always. As prosecutors, our only agenda is to promote public safety in our community and to ensure that justice is served,” Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor said in a statement. “I commend the victims, witnesses, and law enforcement officers for their candor and assistance in reinvestigating a crime that occurred more than 34 years ago.”
Pryor said an examination of the brother of one of the victims revealed that Holmes’ car may have been misidentified at the time and that key differences between his Oldsmobile and those of the thieves were missed.
Based on the review, five of the six independent members voted that Holmes was innocent and that his conviction should be overturned immediately.
Both victims in the case said they believed Holmes should be released. Officials involved in the original investigation were also shocked: Holmes served 34 years in prison and was sentenced to 400 years in prison.
The South Florida non-profit organization OIC is ready to support Holmes with reintegration services, training and job placement.