Sidney Holmes, a 57-year-old who spent most of his life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, has been acquitted.
Throughout his sentence, he maintained his innocence, as Atlanta Black Star reported.
In 1988, Holmes was accused of driving the getaway car in an armed robbery. Though he did not match the driver’s description provided by witnesses (nor did his vehicle with the one used in the incident), a jury still found him guilty. The incident wasn’t Holmes’ first run-in with the law as authorities were after the then-23-year-old because of his convictions for being the getaway driver in other armed robberies.
Authorities put Holmes in a lineup and asked the victim who identified who she thought the driver was. After seeing many lineups, she eventually picked Holmes as the perpetrator. However, reports say the woman with the robbery victim could never identify Holmes.
It was also found investigators at the time dismissed six people’s testimonies that noted Holmes was with his parents at another location at the time of the robbery.
With that curated evidence, the prosecution got a conviction after a four-week trial, which lasted from April to May 1989. Holmes was the only person arrested, tried and convicted for the crime.
According to NBC News, prosecutors asked the judge to give Holmes 825 years, using his prior convictions as the reason for the harsh sentence.
“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 then, the Daily Mail reported.
Magrino did not advocate for a life sentence because he didn’t want Holmes to get the chance to obtain parole after 25 years, according to Atlanta Black Star.
The judge found 852 years excessive, so he went with 400 instead.
Holmes brought his case to the Innocence Project in 2019, the Miami Herald reported. After executive director Seth Miller reviewed the case, he connected with the Broward State Attorney’s Office and spent years working to free Holmes.
“When someone’s been in prison for three decades telling everyone ‘I’m innocent,’ ‘I’m innocent,’ — for many of these men and women, no one’s listened to them the entire time,” Miller told the Herald.
Arielle Demby Berger, assistant state attorney for the 17th Judicial Circuit, agreed, finding “there is no evidence tying Mr. Holmes to the robbery other than a flawed identification.”
“No fingerprints, no physical evidence. Nothing but one witness ID that we, your honor, believe was a bad ID,” she said, the Herald reported.
When the 57-year-old learned in the courtroom Monday that he would be a free man, he said he felt overwhelmed.
“I’m going to find something to eat,” he told the Herald.
His mother, Mary Holmes, was thrilled and emotional.
“I was so elated,” Mary said. “I just kept praising God.”
What happened to Holmes was devastating, but he shared that he’s focused on letting go and moving on.
“I can’t have hate. I just have to keep on moving,” Holmes said.