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He was free for 2 years. Now Crosley Green faces a life sentence again for a crime he says he didn’t commit

<i>Tim Shortt/Florida Today/USA Today Network</i><br/>Crosley Green addresses an audience during a press conference at the Holiday Inn in Titusville
Tim Shortt/Florida Today/USA Today Network
Crosley Green addresses an audience during a press conference at the Holiday Inn in Titusville

By Zoe Sottile and Denise Royal, CNN

A Florida man was freed from prison in 2021 after serving three decades for a murder he says he didn’t commit. But the conviction was reinstated in 2022, and now a judge has ruled he has to return to prison this month.

US District Judge Roy Dalton ruled this week that Crosley Green must turn himself in to the authorities by April 17 to continue serving life in prison.

Green, 65, has been fighting to clear his name and for his freedom for more than three decades. He may soon have to again do it from behind bars.

Green was allowed to leave prison on conditional release in 2021, about three years after his conviction was overturned by a federal court in Orlando. The state of Florida appealed that decision and won last year, and Green’s conviction was reinstated. Judge 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 his case.

Green’s only options for remaining out of prison now are clemency or parole, according to his legal team.

“We are in strategy mode right now, with respect to parole and clemency,” Green’s attorney Jeane Thomas told CNN Thursday. “There is a commission within the state of Florida that considers both options. In the case of parole, they make a decision. In the case of clemency, they make a recommendation to the governor.”

Thomas was quick to point out that clemency is not the same as exoneration. She says it is just a mechanism through which the state decides someone has served enough time behind bars to be released.

For the past two years, Green has held a job at a machine grafting facility, attended church and spent time with his grandchildren. He has worn an ankle monitor and been “a model citizen,” according to Thomas.

“For 15 years now, we have believed wholeheartedly, 100 percent in the innocence of our client,” Thomas said. “As lawyers, we have to believe that the justice system will get it right. We’re going to keep fighting. This is a grave injustice. And we just believe that eventually we will get it right.”

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 resentenced to life in prison in 2009 due to a technicality related to the sentencing phase of his trial.

In 2018, Judge Dalton ruled prosecutors had improperly withheld evidence that police at one point 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 material to the case.

Despite the latest ruling, Green remains optimistic in his fight to prove his innocence. In a statement shared by his lawyers with CNN, he said, “To me, it’s just another part of what I’m going through now to get my freedom. That’s all it is.”

He attributed his perseverance to his faith.

“If it wasn’t for the Lord, I’d be down and out right now,” he said in the statement from his lawyers. “I have so much faith and trust and belief, it’s hard for me to let my guard down.”

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Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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