A Florida man who served three decades behind bars for a murder he says he did not commit returned to prison Monday after spending the past two years building a life outside prison walls.
Since his parole in 2021 amid appeals, Crosley Green, 65, had held a job at a machine grafting facility, attended church and spent time with his grandchildren He even fell in love.
“I’ve been with this man for two years,” his fiancee, Kathy Spikes, told Newssites.org. “Not being able to have a phone call at 5 o’clock to say, ‘I’m home,’ for me to say, ‘What do you want for dinner,’ that’s what worries me.”
His return to prison came about two weeks after U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton ruled that he must surrender to authorities by April 17 to resume his life sentence.
Green turned himself in to the Florida Department of Corrections at 5 p.m. Monday, according to his attorneys. He was accompanied by Spikes, family members and his lawyers Keith Harrison and Jeane Thomas, who have represented him pro bono for 15 years.
Green could be released from prison on parole in 2021, about three years after a federal court in Orlando overturned his conviction. The state of Florida appealed that decision and won last year, and Green’s conviction was reinstated. Dalton allowed Green to remain free while he exhausted his legal options. Green’s legal team petitioned the US Supreme Court, but in late February the court declined to hear their case.
“I can’t be mad at anybody,” Green told Newssites.org. “I don’t want anybody else to get mad at anybody. Anger won’t get you anywhere. I won’t do (nothing) but hurt you. I’m happy. I’m not happy to go back. I’ve got my future wife, I’ve got my friends who came here with me. I have my family.”
Green was convicted in the 1989 shooting death of 21-year-old Charles Flynn. Green, who is black, was sentenced to death by an all-white jury, then sentenced to life in prison in 2009 because of a technicality related to the sentencing phase of his trial.
In 2018, Judge Dalton ruled that prosecutors had improperly withheld evidence that at one point police suspected someone else was the shooter. But late last year, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and reinstated Green’s conviction, saying the withheld evidence was not important to the case.
Green’s only options to stay out of prison now are clemency or probation, according to his legal team.
“We think he’s an excellent candidate for parole,” Thomas said. “He’s shown that in the last two years he’s been on supervised release. He’s been an incredibly successful person on the outside with his job, his church and his family.”
Thomas has pointed out that clemency is not the same as exoneration. She says it’s just a mechanism through which the state decides someone has spent enough time behind bars to be released.
Since his release, Green has been wearing an ankle monitor and has been “a model citizen,” according to Thomas.
“For 15 years, we believe wholeheartedly, 100 percent in our client’s innocence,” Thomas said. “As lawyers, we have to believe that justice will do it right. We will keep fighting. This is a grave injustice. And we just think we’re going to get it right eventually.”
Despite the latest ruling, Green remains optimistic in his fight to prove his innocence. In a statement shared by his lawyers on Newssites.org, he said: “For me, it’s just another part of what I’m going through now to get my freedom. That’s all.”
He also attributed his perseverance to his faith in comments to Newssites.org.
“If everyone can believe in themselves as I believe in myself, in the Lord, then you can understand and say the things that I can say without letting anything come between you and your faith,” he said.