Pro Bono

Former death row inmate thanks God and his lawyers for his release after 30-plus years in prison

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A former death row inmate in Florida told reporters Thursday that he thanked God and his legal team for his release from prison.

Crosley Green won his freedom, at least for the time being, after U.S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr. of the Middle District of Florida ordered his release because of health concerns, the COVID-19 pandemic and the prosecution’s failure to turn over exculpatory evidence in his trial for a 1989 murder, report Florida Today (here and here), Click Orlando and CBS News.

Dalton also described Green, who has always maintained his innocence, as a model prisoner.

Prosecutors have appealed Dalton’s 2018 ruling overturning Green’s conviction, and the case is pending before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Atlanta. Dalton ruled that prosecutors should have turned over evidence that officers responding to the crime scene in Titusville, Florida, at first suspected another person—the victim’s ex-girlfriend—committed the murder.

The ex-girlfriend reported the crime, telling police that she was at the scene and a “Black guy” hanging around in a park near their pickup truck robbed them and killed the victim. The ex-girlfriend picked Green out of a photo lineup that showed six pictures. CBS News reports, however, that the ex-girlfriend was never a suspect.

Since the conviction, four prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony, and 10 alibi witnesses have come forward. The victim’s ex-girlfriend has not recanted. Green said he was at a party at the time of the murder, according to CBS News. No physical evidence tied him to the crime.

Green has been represented pro bono in post-conviction appeals by Crowell & Moring partners Keith Harrison and Jeane Thomas. The law firm was recruited to take on the case in 2008 by the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project.

Before gaining the 2018 reversal, the lawyers got Green’s death sentence reversed by the Florida Supreme Court and succeeded in getting the 11th Circuit to allow consideration of Green’s claims on the merits. The firm has devoted millions of dollars of resources and work hours to the case, according to Florida Today.

At the Thursday press conference in Cocoa, Florida, Green said he hopes that the appeals court rules in his favor, according to Florida Today.

“I thank God I’m here right now. And I look to Him to do what He’s gonna do. I made it through then, and I’ll make it through now. He’s got me covered,” Green said.

Harrison told Florida Today that the news of Dalton’s release order led to tears of joy in the law office.

“He has been fighting for his freedom for over 30 years,” Harrison said of Green. “The arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

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