(TITUSVILLE, Fla.) — When Crosley Green was released from a Florida prison in 2021 after serving 33 years for a murder he said he did not commit, he and family members who met him outside the penitentiary walls believed his long nightmare was over. As loved ones hugged Green and cried tears of joy, his lawyers said they were confident evidence discovered after his conviction would exonerate him.
Green, however, has been ordered back to prison next week after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit rejected his claim that his guilty verdict was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights. The appellate court described the evidence uncovered post-trial as “strictly circumscribed” and concluded it would not have changed the outcome of his 1990 conviction by an all-white Brevard County, Florida, jury.
“The most important thing is an innocent man has served 33 years in prison and is going back in for a crime he didn’t commit,” one of Green’s attorneys, Jeane Thomas, told ABC News.
Thomas said three key prosecution witnesses, including Green’s sister, recanted testimony that Green, who is Black, confessed to fatally shooting Charles “Chip” Flynn, a 21-year-old white man during a 1989 carjacking, alleging they were all coerced by prosecutors and investigators into lying on the witness stand.
Additionally, Green’s legal team said the prosecution never turned over to the defense evidence that the two sheriff’s deputies who initially responded to the shooting did not believe the sole eyewitness, Flynn’s ex-girlfriend, a white teenager, who claimed a “Black guy” committed the slaying.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided in late February not to review Green’s case, exhausting his final appeal.
Green, 65, is scheduled to report to the Florida Department of Corrections by Monday to resume his life sentence. But, he said he has not given up and hopes he will walk free again.
“It’s bad, but it ain’t enough to affect me any kind of way. It can’t make me feel down, out and stuff like that because I came too far,” Green said in a video statement released to ABC News by his lawyers. “There could be a lot more I’d like to do. But in reality, one day I’m going to get to do it. Right now, I’m going to abide by the rules about what was set forth and be returned back to prison.”
‘He did not kill that boy’
The 11th Circuit decision overturned a ruling made in 2018 by U.S. District Court Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr. of the Middle District of Florida. Dalton set aside Green’s conviction, granted him a conditional release citing concerns over the COVID pandemic and sent the case back to the state to free Green or hold a new trial.
Dalton, according to his ruling, found that now retired Assistant State Attorney Chris White violated the so-called Brady rule constitutionally requiring prosecutors to disclose material evidence favorable to a defendant. He concluded White should have turned over to the defense notes of conversations with the first two sheriff’s deputies who responded to the Flynn shooting and told him they suspected Flynn might have been shot by his ex-girlfriend — the star prosecution witness.
“It is difficult to conceive of information more material to the defense… than the fact that the initial responding officers evaluated the totality of evidence as suggesting that the investigation should be directed toward someone other than (Green),” Dalton’s ruling reads.
Diane Clark, a retired Brevard County Sheriff’s Office major, was one of the two deputies who responded to the Flynn shooting. Clark told ABC News in a telephone interview this week she was “devastated” when she heard Green was ordered back to prison.
“He doesn’t belong there. He spent too many years there to start with. And to this day, I’ll say he did not kill that boy,” Clark said. “When I got the news that he was going back to prison, I just felt terrible about it.”
Regardless of the new evidence, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody appealed Dalton’s ruling, leading to the 11th Circuit decision.
“The Florida Attorney General’s Office is charged by statute to represent the State of Florida in upholding judgments and sentences sought by the State Attorney in each circuit and imposed by trial courts when they are appealed,” a spokesperson for Moody said in a statement to ABC News.
In the two years Green, the father of three sons, has been out of prison, he has lived a model life, said Thomas, who has worked on Green’s case for the past 15 years. As part of his conditional release, Green is required to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet and report regularly to a probation officer.
He’s allowed to leave his house only to go to his job as a skilled machinist at a manufacturing company and services at his church on Sundays.
Thomas, a partner in the Washington D.C. law firm Crowell & Moring, said Green has also gotten the chance to know his many grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
“They’re all going through this with him, sort of grieving him going back into prison. But he’s strong for all of them and he’s an example to all of them,” Thomas said.
April 4, 1989 homicide
Flynn’s slaying unfolded in the early morning hours of April 4, 1989. His ex-girlfriend, identified in court documents as Kim Hallock, claimed Flynn came to her house to discuss their relationship and they ended up going to a Little League baseball park in Titusville, Florida, where they smoked marijuana and talked. The then 19-year-old Hallock claimed a “Black guy” approached the pickup truck they were in and carjacked them at gunpoint, the court records state.
Hallock, who testified at Green’s trial, claimed the assailant tied Flynn’s hands behind his back with a shoestring, got into the driver’s seat of the pickup and drove them to a remote orange grove, according to the court documents. She claimed that while driving the vehicle, the assailant shifted the gear shift while pointing the gun at her, according to the court records.
While at the orange grove, Hallock alleged the armed perpetrator forced her from the vehicle, according to the court records. While they were outside the truck, Flynn managed to retrieve his handgun Hallock had surreptitiously placed on the seat under a pair of jeans and despite his hands still tied behind his back, managed to fire a shot at the assailant that missed, according to court documents.
Hallock maintained that after Flynn fired the gun, she broke free from the assailant, jumped in the pickup and fled, according to court documents. She claimed she heard several shots as she drove away. She told investigators she went to Flynn’s best friend’s house and called 911, according to court records.
Clark, who was a sheriff’s sergeant at the time, said that when she and another deputy, Mark Rixey, found Flynn, he was covered in blood, but was conscious. Flynn’s .22-caliber handgun was found about four or five feet away from him.
“When we found him and I asked him his name, he didn’t tell me. I asked who did this and all he would say is, ‘I’m hurt. Take me home,"” said Clark, adding she and Rixey performed CPR on Flynn.
Flynn was taken to a hospital by ambulance and pronounced dead upon arrival, according to court records.
Clark said a big red flag was the story Hallock told sheriff’s investigators about what she did after fleeing the orange grove.
“This is something that has always kind of stuck in my throat for years: She went past houses, she went past a convenience store that’s open 24 hours a day. She passed another pay phone. She went past Parrish Medical Center, which is a hospital in that area, and went to his (Flynn’s) friend’s house to call 911,” Clark said. “My own belief is he might have survived had he had medical care sooner.”
In her initial tape-recorded interview with homicide detectives, Hallock could not describe the assailant, telling detectives, “I really didn’t get a good look at him. I was really scared,” according to the recording.
Hallock described the assailant in a subsequent meeting with a police sketch. Thomas said Hallock described the assailant as big and bulky, sporting a long jerry curl hairstyle.
“Crosley did not resemble that description in any way, shape or form,” Thomas told ABC News. “He’s slight of build, he’s always had a very close-cropped hairstyle.”
But at least two community residents, including an auxiliary police officer, told investigators the sketch resembled Green, who was seen at the park hours before the carjacking, according to court documents.
A photo of Green, who had just gotten out of prison after serving time for a drug conviction, was placed in a photo lineup detectives showed Hallock, who was told by the head of the sheriff’s homicide unit that one of the photos “may or may not (be) of the individual who had done these things,” according to the court documents.
“They put six photos for her to take a look at. They put Crosley in what we call the ‘bull’s eye position,’ which is the center of the top row. And his photo is much darker than the other individuals in this particular lineup,” Thomas said.
Hallock picked out Green’s photos and detectives told her she selected the right person, Thomas said.
About two months after Flynn’s slaying, Green was arrested and charged with murder.
Thomas said no physical evidence connected Green to the Flynn shooting, including any fingerprints found at the crime scene or inside Flynn’s pickup truck. No gunshot residue was found on Flynn’s hands to support his ex-girlfriend’s claim he fired his gun at the assailant, Thomas said. And, according to Thomas, investigators never examined Hallock’s hands for gunshot residue, nor considered her a suspect.
During the trial, Green’s defense attorney, John Parker, raised the possibility that Hallock killed Flynn, noting that at the time of the homicide Flynn was dating another woman.
The jury convicted Green of murder, kidnapping and armed robbery in 1990, deliberating three hours before reaching a verdict. Green was initially given a death sentence, but he was removed from death row in 2009 because a prior conviction in New York for armed robbery when he was 18 could not be used as an aggravating circumstance because he was sentenced as a youthful offender.
“With no physical evidence tying Green to the crime, before an all-white jury with the sole eyewitness claiming a ‘Black guy’ did it, [the girlfriend’s] credibility as well as the credibility of the police investigation was critical to the outcome of the trial. But the first two police officers on the scene knew the teenager’s claim that a ‘Black guy did it’ was nothing more than a hoax,” Green’s lawyers wrote in their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Efforts by ABC News to reach Hallock were unsuccessful.
In a statement to CBS’ “48 Hours” in 1999, Hallock said, “The fact is that there are only two surviving witnesses from that evening, myself and Crosley, and I’m sure deep down inside Crosley knows that he is right where he deserves to be.”
White, the prosecutor in the case, told ABC News in a statement that the 11th Circuit decision affirmed state court rulings that he did not violate Green’s right to a fair trial by failing to disclose notes he took of his conversations with the two deputies, Clark and Rixey, adding, “Those opinions would not have been admissible in evidence.”
“Crosley Green was not denied justice on procedural grounds but on the facts of law. Nor was he wrongfully accused and prosecuted because he was Black,” White said. “He was found guilty of the armed kidnapping of Kim and Chip, the armed robberies of them both, and the murder of Chip Flynn, and is now denied relief based on the facts of law.”
‘We’re not giving up’
Thomas told ABC News she and her defense team, “are out of legal options in court at this point.”
“We’re not giving up and we will never give up,” Thomas said.
She said the two possible avenues they are still exploring is getting the state of Florida to grant Green parole or to petition Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to grant clemency.
Green said he is putting his faith in God, saying, going back to prison “is just another part of what I’m going through now to get my freedom.”
“If it wasn’t for the Lord, I’d be down and out right now,” Green said in his video statement. “I’ve got God on my side. That’s what brought me through these 33 years, plus these two years I’ve been at home.”
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