Last Updated Apr 16, 2021 3:43 PM EDT
On April 7, 2021, as night settled on the Calhoun Correctional Institution outside Tallahassee, Florida,took his first steps as a free man after spending half his life behind bars. His case, say his lawyers, exposes an ugly truth about the American criminal system: it's easy to send a Black man to prison, but a nearly impossible feat to get a wrongful conviction corrected and overturned.
"48 Hours" has been covering Crosley Green's case for 22 years. He is now out of prison and off of death row. Correspondent Erin Moriarty was there for his first taste of freedom and has the very latest in his case in
Carloads of family members raced to the prison to greet Green — some of whom weren't even born when he was imprisoned. Green ran toward them for an embrace.
On his first full day of freedom, after checking in with his parole officer, Green's attorneys decided to treat Green with a food he had been craving for years. It wasn't a steak; it was ice cream. Green savored every bite. "I've been wanting this strawberry ice cream for so long." It was a sweet taste of freedom he'd been denied for nearly 32 years.
Even before Green went on trial for the murder of Charles "Chip" Flynn, there were serious problems with the case. Flynn had been found shot with a single bullet in the chest in a Florida citrus grove in the early morning hours of April 4, 1989. Earlier in the evening, he had been in his truck with an ex-girlfriend, Kim Hallock. She had called 911 shortly after 1 a.m. and told a dispatcher that a Black man had robbed and hijacked the couple, and then shot Flynn. Hallock said she had then escaped in Flynn's truck. Hallock later identified the shooter as 32-year-old Crosley Green from a photo lineup given her by investigators.
Green was arrested and charged with Flynn's murder even though there were no fingerprints or any physical evidence that tied him to the crime. Shoeprints found at the scene couldn't be matched to Green.
What's more, four months later, two Brevard County officers who had been first on the crime scene, expressed their own doubts about the arrest. Patrol Deputy Mark Rixey and Sergeant Diane Clarke went to Assistant State Attorney Christopher White and told him they thought Kim Hallock was the likely shooter. Rixey later said, "I told him that I thought she did it." Hallock's story was inconsistent, both officers told state attorney White. They questioned whether there was a third person involved at all.
Hallock told investigators that as she fled the scene, she heard five to six shots, but Clarke said, "You don't see any shell casings ... and it makes you wonder."
What's more, Hallock waited to call for help for Flynn, says Clarke, and gave the 911 operator such vague directions for finding Flynn that precious time was lost. Flynn was still alive when Clarke and Rixey finally found him, but when they asked him about the shooter, Flynn refused to answer and just asked them to take him home. Flynn was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Clarke remembered, "something is not ringing true … it was just a gut feeling. It didn't feel right."
Assistant State Attorney White took notes of the meeting but didn't turn over the information to Crosley Green's attorney.
At trial, prosecutors presented three witnesses, including Green's own sister, who claimed he had confessed. Later, all three, who had been facing legal problems of their own, recanted saying they had been pressured to testify against Green.
In September of 1990, Green was convicted by an all-White jury and then sentenced to death. That's when Green began his long, arduous battle to get that conviction overturned.
Nearly 20 years later, after lawyers Keith Harrison, Jeanne Thomas and a team from Crowell & Moring in Washington, D.C. took his case pro bono, Green won one battle and was taken off death row. But it would take nearly another decade before the same lawyers were able to convince a federal court that Green had been.
In July 2018, a federal judge overturned Green's conviction, ruling that Assistant State Attorney Christopher White should have turned over those notes he had written long ago during his meeting with Rixey and Clarke. The judge instructed the state of Florida to either retry Green or release him. But even then, Green remained in prison. He was kept there when the state of Florida appealed the ruling and the case went to the U.S Court of Appeals.
Nearly three years later, after the coronavirus invaded prisons and Green was diagnosed with latent tuberculosis, Green's lawyers filed a motion to have him released pending the appeal and it was granted.
That's how Crosley Green, now 63 years old, was able to finally walk out a free man into the arms of family members, impatiently waiting to finally take him home.
Green is free to spend time with his very large and loving family, but he is under house arrest. While he waits for the U.S. Court of Appeals to rule on his case, he must wear an ankle bracelet and can't go beyond the property limits of his brother-in-law's home without permission of his probation officer.
And hanging over Green's head is the knowledge that his freedom still hangs in the balance. If the U.S. Court of Appeals sides with the state of Florida, he could be sent back to prison. But Crosley Green is upbeat. He doesn't believe that will happen. He believes the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals will go his way and he will get the new trial he has fought so long for to finally clear his name.