A Black man who spent more than two decades on death row for a 1989 murder that he insists he did not commit has been freed this week, three years after his conviction was successfully overturned.
A Florida federal judge on Tuesday approved a motion requesting Crosley Green's immediate release, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, his health problems, and the 2018 reversal of his conviction, according to CBS News.
On Wednesday, Green stepped outside Calhoun Correctional Facility, emerging a free man for the first time in 31 years and 10 months.
"To put it into words how I feel now, I'm overwhelmed," Green told reporters at a Thursday press conference, according to Florida Today. "I got my freedom back for whatever time I'm gonna have it until the court makes their decision. I'm hoping that it's in favor of me."
Video of Green’s release and emotional reunion with several family members was shared online by “48 Hours.”
"I wanted to really feel the excitement and the joy of making that first step out of the gate," Green added. "I wanted to feel the joy of that first hug from my son when he met me outside of the gate."
In 1990, Green was convicted by an all-white jury in the murder of 22-year-old Charles "Chip" Flynn, who was found shot to death in a citrus grove. His attorneys had previously argued there was zero evidence linking Green to the slaying. However, he was eventually sentenced to death.
Green has maintained for the duration of his incarceration that he’d been at a social gathering when Flynn was murdered.
Federal Judge Roy B. Dalton originally overturned Green’s conviction in 2018, but the state subsequently appealed the ruling. The case has been stalled in the state’s 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for years.
Dalton ultimately struck down the state’s request to keep Green incarcerated while the appeal is pending.
"The public has a strong interest in the release of a prisoner whom the court has found to be incarcerated in violation of the Constitution," Dalton wrote in his decision.
The Florida judge added that the Green "poses no danger to public safety."
Green’s lawyers applauded the decision.
"This is indeed a glorious and beautiful day," lead counsel Keith Harrison said. "This case started... with what is often known as a racial hoax. A crime was committed and the explanation was 'a Black guy did it.'"
Green’s attorneys had also insisted he was at an elevated risk for contracting COVID-19 due to his advanced age and respiratory issues. He’ll remain on house arrest while the state’s appeal remains open.
Prior to being charged with Flynn’s murder, Green had been convicted of armed robbery and also had drug-related arrests. He’d been released from prison weeks before being accused in the 1989 murder.
Green’s lawyers cautioned that this wasn’t the “finish line” in his case. The state, they said, could still technically retry the case.
"I can assure you, if they do choose to retry the case, we will do everything to ensure that this trial is a fair trial and the jury will hear all the evidence," co-counsel Jeane Thomas also said.
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