CNN

Crosley Green has received news he didn’t want to hear – a federal appeals panel is reinstating his vacated 1990 murder conviction – but the fight to prove his innocence is not over, and he remains at peace knowing “everything’s going to work out as it should, as it’s supposed to.”

Though he remains under court monitoring, he’s been working at a machine grafting facility, attending church every Sunday and spending as much time as he can with family and friends, especially the nieces, nephews and grandkids he missed so dearly while in prison for almost 32 years. He’s not letting any court ruling get him down as he puts his life back together, he said.

“I’ve got great attorneys. I put my faith in the Lord. They’re doing all they can for me. I sit back and don’t worry about anything. I’m just carrying on with life, everyday life,” he said on a Wednesday video conference call.

His legal team is asking the case be reheard before the full bench of 11 justices, and they expect a ruling in mid-May. They need six judges to get a new hearing. On Wednesday, they’re holding a news conference to announce the next steps in the long fight to exonerate their client.

Green’s defense team says he spent almost 32 years in prison after a prosecutor failed to provide exculpatory evidence to his original lawyers – namely, the fact that two of the investigators at the murder scene pointed to another suspect. Allowing a conviction to stand under such circumstances could have disturbing ramifications, Green’s lawyers say.

“If prosecutors are allowed to conceal and hide evidence pointing to innocence from defense counsel, it could impact every criminal defendant going forward throughout the 11th Circuit – Florida, Georgia, and Alabama,” attorney Keith Harrison said in a news release.

The 64-year-old was convicted of fatally shooting Chip Flynn in 1990, based largely on the testimony of Flynn’s girlfriend, Kim Hallock, who told police Green shot Flynn as she escaped the scene in Flynn’s truck. Prosecutors also alleged that Green admitted the crime to others, that Hallock identified Green in a police lineup, and shoe prints and a tracking canine linked Green to the crime.

In 2018, US District Judge Roy Dalton ruled the original prosecutor had withheld from Green’s defense that police officers Diane Clarke and Mark Rixey had told prosecutors they suspected Hallock shot Flynn. Dalton deemed the omission a Brady violation, overturning Green’s conviction – meaning the state could either retry Green or release him.

The state attorney general stood by the original conviction and appealed the ruling, keeping Green in jail for almost three years until Dalton issued a ruling last year ordering Green’s release. Not only did Green face a heightened risk during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dalton ruled, but he also had been a model prisoner and posed no danger to the community.

Attorney General Ashley Moody unsuccessfully countered that Green was safer in prison, given there were no active Covid-19 cases in Calhoun Correctional Institution. Moody’s office did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Green has been under house arrest, living with a relative in Titusville, Florida, while the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has taken more than two years to examine his case.

During an interview last year, Green told CNN he was delighted with his freedom, despite not being able to leave his brother-in-law’s yard at the time. He was passing time feeding squirrels in the backyard, enjoying strawberry ice cream and his sister’s homemade oxtails, and visiting with family and other visitors.

“There’s a lot of other freedom out there, but listen, this little bit of freedom I got right here is a whole lot compared to no freedom at all,” he said at the time.

He added that he wanted nothing more than to visit his sister’s grave in nearby Mims, where he was born, to pay his respects. Not being there for her when she passed was one of the most painful parts of being imprisoned, he said.

On Wednesday, he said he’d gotten a chance to visit Selestine Peterkin’s grave during a memory service last year.

“She was one of the strongest supporters I ever had. She was my rock. She was my everything,” he said. “I feel good. I’d feel much better if she was still here. This was the day she’d been looking forward to. She always told me, ‘I can’t wait till you come home.’”

Though he maintains a mostly sunny demeanor, he feels “kind of let down” knowing his house arrest prevents him from taking the youngsters in his family to a park or fast-food joint, “you know, what parents do with kids.” Some of his relatives live about 20 miles away, so it’s tough to connect as much as he’d like. Still, he took immense joy in playing Santa Claus during his first Christmas as a freed man last year – even if some relatives felt he went overboard with the gifting, he said with a laugh.

Green felt confident last year that the federal court’s ruling would stand, he said. After all, he said, he’s innocent so he’s leaving the matter in God’s hands. He has full faith in the justice system, despite spending decades behind bars for something he didn’t do, he said.

But last month, after two years on the docket, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit ruled his original conviction would stand. Dismantling the lower federal court’s ruling, the panel found: there were no meaningful inconsistencies in Hallock’s story; two witnesses who recanted their original testimony were not credible; there was no evidence witnesses were coerced; Green’s alibi witnesses were not credible; evidence found in Flynn’s truck “undermines the value” of post-trial DNA evidence, and evidence regarding the fatal bullet was not new.

Further, a hair found in the vehicle at the scene may have come from Green, the panel ruled, saying, “The analysis revealed that the hair could not have come from 99.58% of the population. However, Green is a member of the 0.42% of the population from which it could have come.”

The judges concluded, “Having considered Green’s new evidence of innocence alongside the evidence of guilt, Green has failed to demonstrate that ‘it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted (Green).’”

Attorneys Harrison and Jeane Thomas of Crowell & Moring, an international law firm that’s fought pro bono for Green since 2008, have long cited a litany of problems with the evidence.

Four witnesses have recanted their testimony, they told CNN. In addition to the alibi witness who testified at trial, they’ve found nine more who say Green was doing drugs at a party in Mims, 2 miles from the crime scene, when the killing occurred, Harrison said.

Green poses with attorneys Jeane Thomas and Keith Harrison the day after his release.

Other issues the defense has raised include: Green’s fingerprints weren’t found at the scene; Green doesn’t know how to drive a stick shift like the one in Flynn’s truck; a canine officer used a questionable method to track shoe prints at the scene; the shoe prints found did not match Green’s lone pair of Reeboks; and the photo lineup presented to Hallock positioned Green’s picture, darker and smaller than five others, at the top center “bull’s-eye” spot, said Harrison, a former prosecutor.

“Nothing adds up. Nothing fits together,” Harrison said last year. “There’s a lot of facts in this case, and most of the facts point to Crosley’s innocence.”

In a news release last month, Harrison said he was “deeply disappointed” in the 11th Circuit decision and insisted the lower court’s decision to vacate the conviction was correct. Green “deserves a new, and this time, a fair trial,” he said.

“Our fight for justice for Mr. Green will not be over until he is exonerated. There are various ways we can appeal this ruling, and we plan on doing just that,” he said.

Green is now in yet another phase of his protracted waiting game, but for him, nothing has changed. His focus is on family and learning how to be a solid friend and family man, the father of three said.

“Like I said, I’m still moving forward. I got no reason to turn around and be looking over my shoulder,” he said.

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