A beaming Sidney Holmes walked out of a Florida jail Monday and hugged family members as he tasted freedom for the first time in the 34 years since he was wrongfully convicted of robbery. The 57-year-old was exonerated after the State Attorney's Conviction Review Unit determined that there was no evidence linking him to a 1988 robbery apart from eyewitness identification that was probably incorrect, CBS reports. Holmes, who was convicted of being the getaway driver for two men who robbed a man and a woman outside a convenience store near Fort Lauderdale, was sentenced to 400 years in 1989. Police never found the robbers.
The CRU, working with the Innocence Project, found that there were differences between Holmes' vehicle and the one used in the robbery. They also found that he was probably misidentified in live and photo lineups. "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 state attorney’s office said Monday, per the Miami Herald. "The methods used would not be acceptable practices today." Both robbery victims supported Holmes' release, and the deputies involved in the original investigation were shocked to hear he was still in prison, according to court papers.
Holmes was transferred from the Everglades Correctional Institution to the Broward County jail ahead of his release. After he walked out of jail, he said he was looking forward to seafood at Olive Garden, WPLG reports. "With the Christian faith I have, you know I can’t hate. I just have to keep moving," he said. "I knew this day was going to come sooner or later." He said he had a message for other innocent people in prison: "You can’t lose faith." (Read more wrongful conviction stories.)