Man Released After 34 Years Wrongfully Incarcerated Following Eyewitness Misidentification

The Broward County Courthouse via wikipedia

By Belen Avelar 

FT LAUDERDALE, FL – After an intensive two-and-a-half-year collaborative investigation with the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF), the Conviction Review Unit (CRU) in the Broward County State attorney’s office this week announced Sidney Holmes’ conviction for the 1988 armed robbery he allegedly was involved in should be vacated.

“Sidney Holmes was convicted and sentenced to 400 years in prison for the 1988 armed robbery,” now he’ll be released after 34 years in jail,” according to the Innocence Project of Florida.

A joint reinvestigation by the Conviction Review Unit and the Innocence Project of Florida found, in November 2020, with the help of scientific experts, the unreliability of the eyewitness identifications.

They cited inconsistencies in the perpetrator’s description and how Holmes became a suspect in the first place, according to Brandon Scheck, staff attorney, and Seth Miller, Executive Director.

As a result, due to the “inconsistencies in the perpetrator’s description and evidence suggesting that Mr. Holmes was a victim of eyewitness misidentification, the CRU concluded that Mr. Holmes was likely innocent,” said the Innocence Project of Florida.

“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,” said Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor.

Holmes is among many other innocent individuals who have been wrongfully accused and released with the help of joint reexaminations. Since 2019, said the office, “seven innocent individuals have been released due to joint reexaminations with State Attorney’s Office in wrongful cases.”

As the Innocence Project of Florida reported, “Holmes is the second individual to be exonerated as a result of a collaborative reinvestigation with the Broward CRU.”

Circuit Judge Edward Merrigan agreed with the IPF and Broward State Attorney’s office and ordered that his conviction and sentence be vacated this week.

“I never lost hope and always knew this day would come. I am so thankful for the State Attorney’s Office and the Innocence Project of Florida hearing my pleas of innocence and finding the truth. I cannot wait to hug my mother in the free world for the first time in over 34 years,” stated Holmes.

“Sidney’s case is one of the many cases where someone was convicted based solely on one eyewitness identification and sent to prison for their entire lifetime on the basis alone. We know misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions…Sidney was misidentified and needed to come home,” said Scheck.

Scheck, who said Holmes was the 30th innocent person released through IPF’s program, added the “sole purpose” of “The Innocence Project of Florida is to help innocent individuals in Florida prisons, like Sidney Holmes, from wrongful convictions and prevent them from continuing to occur at the same time, working on reforming the criminal legal system.”

About The Author

Belen Avelar is a senior at CSU Long Beach majoring in Criminal Justice/Criminology. She is obtaining her Bachelor's degree May of 2023. Following her graduation she plans to join the Gardena Police Department as a peace officer who wishes to expand her career further as a Homicide Detective. Her goal is to help those families whose family members have been killed and provide some type of comfort by figuring out the circumstances surrounding their death and who is responsible. Belen speaks both english and spanish fluently.

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