Wrongfully Convicted Man Freed From 400-Year Prison Sentence After Decades Behind Bars

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Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time, they say. A general warning that any crime committed has the potential to land someone in jail for breaking the law, but the justice system isn’t always as clear-cut as that. Sometimes, people do the time without ever having done the crime at all.

Wrongful convictions have remained a part of the modern prison system, which means innocent people spend years of their life suffering unjustly. Thankfully, some are able to be freed, like one man who faced a 400-year sentence for something he never did.

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More Than Zero

Wrongful convictions are shocking when they surface, but they’re actually far more common than you might think, with estimates of 2-10% of all convictions being wrongful convictions. The process of wrongful convictions involves mistakes and failures at multiple points in the system, from false testimony to inadequate defense, misconduct, and inaccurate scientific evidence.

bed in a prison cell with a slightly open door.
Pexels / RODNAE Productions
Pexels / RODNAE Productions

Thankfully, every so often, a wrongful conviction is discovered and overturned, leading to unbelievable stories from convicts who were innocent all along.

Forever And Then Some

Like Sidney Holmes, a man sentenced to 400 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Holmes in court awaiting the overturning of his sentence.
YouTube / NBC News
YouTube / NBC News

It was October of 1988 when Holmes was arrested. He was believed to be one of the perpetrators of an armed car theft, in which two men held a man and woman at gunpoint before escaping in their car. In April of 1989, he was served a wrongful conviction by the state of Florida.

He was charged with armed robbery and sentenced to a whopping four centuries in prison.

No Chance At Being Released

Even disregarding Holmes being innocent in this situation, 400 years is an astronomically high sentence for an armed robbery.

Holmes being interviewed after being freed.
YouTube / NBC News
YouTube / NBC News

Originally, the prosecution had asked for an 825-year sentence, one that’s even more absurd than the first.

The prosecutor, Peter Magrino, did make a statement at the time explaining why he pushed for over eight centuries. “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.”

A Muddied Past

If Holmes had been given a life sentence, he would have also been given a chance at parole after 25 years, which Magrino wanted to eliminate entirely.

Holmes as he's walking outside, free for the first time in over 30 years.
YouTube / NBC News
YouTube / NBC News

What really did Holmes in regarding this trial is that he’d been previously convicted of armed robbery twice in his life, which made it much easier for the jury to believe that he was guilty this time as well.

Over 30 years would pass before everyone involved learned the truth.

Double Checking

It was in 2020 that Holmes contacted the Conviction Review Unit, a U.S. government agency whose job is to investigate wrongful convictions in their local communities (and hopefully overturn them). The first Conviction Review Unit was created in North Carolina in 2007, with a number of other states having picked it up since then, including Florida.

Holmes hugging Pryor as his sentence is overturned.
YouTube / NBC News
YouTube / NBC News

His decision to reach out would pay off immensely as, after investigating the case, Florida’s Conviction Review Unit found “no evidence” that connected Holmes to the armed robbery in question.

After All This Time

They determined he was more a victim of miscommunication than anything, as he was suspected due to an incorrect eye-witness description of the stolen car and the person who took it. And, as mentioned, his conviction largely rested on his previous crimes, despite there not being conclusive evidence this time around.

Holmes hugging his family that he's being reunited with.
YouTube / NBC News
YouTube / NBC News

Thanks to this reinvestigation, Holmes was freed after wrongfully serving over three decades in prison. He can be seen reuniting with his family, everyone in attendance grateful for justice finally being served correctly.

“I knew this day was gonna come sooner or later, and today is the day,” Holmes, now 57, told WPLG. “I can’t put it into words. It’s overwhelming.”

Strength And Resolve

He’s not letting what happened get to him too much, even though it’s taken up over half of his life at this point. He refuses to hold onto anger, and instead is looking to the future. “[…] I can’t have hate. Just have to keep moving.”

Pryor speaking to the press about the case.
YouTube / NBC News
YouTube / NBC News

Harold F. Pryor, the Broward State Attorney in charge of the Conviction Review Unit at the time of Holmes’ case reinvestigation, had this to say, “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. 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.”

Brighter Days Ahead

To have faced such a horrible, unimagineable fate, a life locked away for something you didn’t do, and come out the other side still able to be hopeful and optimistic is such a beautiful way to live. Holmes has a mindset that many people spent their lives working toward, and some may never achieve.

It’s nothing short of inspiring, and in the face of hardships that are comprably much smaller than what Holmes went through, we ought to channel his positive attitude and remind ourselves that as long as our mental fortitude is strong enough, we can make it through anything.

Are you still searching for your life purpose? You won’t believe what the science of Numerology can reveal about you!

That’s right, the numerology of your birth date, regardless of what month you were born, can reveal surprising information about your personality.

Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]