Crosley Green released after nearly 32 years in prison

Green was serving life sentence in 1989 murder of Chip Flynn

Crosley Green. (John A. Torres of Florida Today)

Citing the public’s strong interest in releasing a prisoner who remained incarcerated in violation of the Constitution, a federal judge on Wednesday ordered Crosley Green to be released from prison, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

Federal Judge Roy B. Dalton of the Middle District Court of Florida granted a motion from Green’s attorneys requesting his immediate release due to health concerns, the pandemic and the fact that Green’s murder conviction was overturned by Dalton himself on July 20, 2018.

Green stepped through the doors of Calhoun Correctional Facility on Wednesday night, his first taste of freedom in 31 years and 10 months.

The state had argued against Green’s release, as they have every step of the way in Green’s legal battle against his 1990 conviction in the shooting death of 22-year-old Charles “Chip” Flynn, who was shot to death in 1989.

Florida appealed Dalton’s 2018 decision and the case has lagged since with no ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, Green has languished in prison for 32 months without a conviction. During that time, his health has worsened, putting him at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19, his lawyers said.

Just this week, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who has fought against Green’s release, did so again, saying he would be safer if he remained in prison. Dalton was not swayed.

“The Court determines that, because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the length of time to resolve Petitioner’s appeal ... Petitioner would be substantially injured since the Court has already reversed his conviction and ordered a new trial,” Dalton wrote in his decision, adding that Green was described as a model prisoner by the warden of Calhoun Correctional Facility.

“Additionally, 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. The Court finds that the public interest weighs in favor of granting release pending appeal.”

Green is expected to be home with his family in Titusville. The 63-year-old will remain on house arrest and report to probation at least until the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rules on his case.

“He has been fighting for his freedom for over 30 years,” said Green’s lead attorney Keith Harrison with Washington D.C.-based Crowell & Morning, adding that more than a few tears were shed in the law offices when the news arrived.

“That day has finally come. The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Crowell & Moring have worked the case pro bono for more than 10 years, dedicating millions of dollars of resources and work hours toward freeing Green.

Another of Green’s attorneys, Jeanne Thomas, celebrated the news but cautioned that Green’s fight for justice is not yet over.

“This is not quite the end of the road,” she said. “Justice has been served today under these circumstances. The full vindication will come when the 11th issues its order.”

Green, who always maintained his innocence, was convicted of murder and sentenced to die in Florida’s electric chair. He spent 20 years on death row before he was re-sentenced to life in prison.

Problems with the conviction began popping up over the years ranging from a faulty photo lineup and junk science involving a dog track to the lack of physical evidence including fingerprints and shell casings. Also, every state witness but one recanted their testimony saying prosecutor Chris White pressured and coerced them into making their statements. There were other problems with the case as well including inconsistent statements made by Flynn’s ex-girlfriend Kim Hallock, who told investigators she got into Flynn’s truck and escaped as Green and Flynn engaged in a shootout.

Hallock passed a hospital, several houses -- including her own where she lived with her parents -- and a payphone and drove to Flynn’s friend’s home to tell him Flynn had been shot.

Flynn refused to tell officers what happened when they arrived on the scene and never once asked if Hallock was OK and if she had managed to get to safety. Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Rixey and Sgt. Diane Clarke pleaded with Flynn to let them know if the shooter had left the area. But Flynn kept asking them to get him out of there and to take him home.

Of all the inconsistencies, though, perhaps none was more damning than the fact that White withheld information from Green’s private attorney, Rob Parker, that those responding officers believed Hallock – and not Green – was responsible for the shooting.

Withholding possible exculpatory information or evidence is known as a Brady Violation. And that is a major no-no.

Dalton ruled a Brady violation had occurred and reversed Green’s conviction in July 2018. If the state did not move to retry the case within 90 days, Green would be a free man. But the state appealed and the case dragged on. It was finally heard before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on March 12, 2020. That court has yet to issue a ruling.

Green’s case was brought to the attention of Chicago private investigator Paul Ciolino by a former Suntree woman by the name of Nan Webb in 1999. Webb was passionately opposed to the death penalty and had been writing Green in prison.

“I have been crying tears of joy since I heard the news,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “I wish all the Green family members that have passed away during this outrageous imprisonment can see from heaven that Crosley is finally on his way to freedom. God Bless all the people who believed in Crosley’s innocence and those who were committed to helping Crosley get his freedom from a crime he did not commit.”

Reached in Chicago, Ciolino said it has been a true team effort.

“It’s always nice to be proven right,” he said. “But it is much better to see a horrendous injustice rectified. Our eternal thanks to all who supported us in this quest.”

It was Ciolino who knew the media would have to play a major role and he contacted CBS News where the story was assigned to journalist Erin Moriarty of the television show 48 Hours.

She has followed the case closely and featured Green’s quest for freedom on “48 Hours” on four different occasions.

“I feel an immense amount of relief for Crosley Green and his family,” she said Wednesday. “But I won’t be able to exhale until the U.S. Court of Appeals finally affirms what our reporting has shown: that Crosley Green was denied his right to a fair trial.”

Green’s case also was the subject of season 5 of Florida Today’s Murder on the Space Coast podcast in 2020 and a four-part series in Florida Today.

A day before the March 2020 hearing, Green said he gave up being bitter while he was on death row.

“I was an angry man when I first got to death row,” he said. “I was, I was angry. But in ’93, it hit me and from that year until now I just stay with the Lord, you know? So, I’m not angry anymore. Anytime that I can wake up and pray to the good Lord above, you know, I can’t be angry. And my days go by easily.”