Florida: Man Sentenced to 400 Years in 1988 Broward Robbery Freed After 34 in 2023

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NBC Miami- Sidney Holmes, a 57-year-old man who was sentenced to 400 years in prison in a 1988 armed robbery in Broward is expected to be set free on Monday after more than 34 years behind bars.

He is to be released from prison following a request from the Broward State Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit.

Reports are that Holmes contacted the unit in November 2020 claiming he was innocent in the June 19, 1988, armed robbery of two people outside a convenience store on Northwest 6th Street in unincorporated Broward.

Holmes, of Lauderhill, was arrested in October 1988 and given a hefty sentence after being convicted in a jury trial in 1989.

Prosecutors said Holmes had been accused of being the driver for two unidentified men who robbed a man and woman at gunpoint and stole the man’s car.

The Conviction Review Unit, working with the Innocence Project of Florida, investigated and found Holmes had a plausible claim of innocence because of how he became a suspect and because of the precarious eyewitness identification that was the principal evidence against him at trial.

Investigators found the eyewitness identification of Holmes was likely a misidentification partly due to the photo and live lineup practices commonly used by law enforcement at the time, which they said was scientifically unreliable and contrary to modern-day best practices.

They also found that there was no evidence tying Holmes to the robbery, other than the flawed identification of him as a suspect.

A civilian investigation, launched by the brother of one of the victims, had caused Holmes to become the only suspect, but it was based on some similarities between his extremely common Oldsmobile and the car used by the robbers, prosecutors said. The investigation overlooked differences between the two cars and was likely a misidentification of the vehicle.

In addition, the Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies who did the original investigation expressed shock that Holmes was sentenced to and had served so much time in prison, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors added that they don’t believe there was any intentional misconduct by witnesses or law enforcement as the identification practices and technology have vastly improved since 1988 and deputies followed the accepted standards at the time.

“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 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.”

Florida Department of Corrections records had listed Holmes’ release date as April of 2232. Sidney Holmes was moved from the Everglades Correctional Institution to the Broward County Main Jail earlier this month.

Broward Circuit Judge Edward Merrigan signed an order Monday morning approving the request from the Broward State Attorney’s Office and the Innocence Project to throw out Holmes’ conviction and sentence.

Merrigan has scheduled a court hearing for 2 p.m. Monday to officially dismiss the charge.

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