After spending more than three decades behind bars, a man who was serving a 400-year prison sentence for a 1988 robbery has been released.
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Sidney Holmes, 57, left prison a free man Monday evening after prosecutors looked into the circumstances around his conviction and determined it was on shaky ground, CBS News reported.
But it’s what Holmes said after his release — a forgiving response after decades of being separated from his friends and loved ones and prevented from having a career or life of his own — that truly stands out.
“What would mad do for me?” Holmes told WPLG-TV. “With the Christian faith I have, I can’t have hate. Just have to keep moving.”
And with that, the now-free man seemingly refuses to hold on to any rage or fury.
Holmes’ freedom comes after a “thorough investigation” of the robbery and circumstances behind his conviction “raised reasonable doubts about his guilt, according to Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor.
Holmes contacted the State Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit in November 2020 to declare his innocence over the incident on June 19, 1988. He was arrested Oct. 6, 1988, and sentenced in April of the next year, found guilty of driving two unidentified men who robbed a man and woman at gunpoint.
Once a review began, prosecutors were forced to rethink the 400-year sentence.
That exploration found Holmes was likely misidentified at the time of his arrest, had key facts overlooked, and that both victims believed Holmes should be released.
“Prosecutors with the Conviction Review Unit (CRU) determined that 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,” the statement announced.
Authorities went on to conclude it is “highly likely that he is factually innocent of the armed robbery,” with five of the six independent panelists voting Holmes is innocent and deserved to be exonerated.
Holmes was released Monday night and an emotional scene unfolded, with his mother and others hugging him and breaking down in tears.
“I know this day was gonna come sooner or later, and today is the day,” he told WPLG-TV. “I can’t put it into words. It’s overwhelming.”
Holmes, too, cried earlier in the day when a judge cleared the way for his release.
Even the Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies who initially investigated the ordeal “expressed shock” over his prison sentence and the time served. However, authorities do not believe any ill will drove the ordeal.
“Prosecutors do not 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,” the statement continued. “The methods used would not be acceptable practices today.”
Holmes, who has already spent time with his daughter and grandchildren, said he’s hoping to open a food truck business now that he’s a free man.
Read the full statement here and pray for Holmes as he exits prison.
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