In a case that has drawn national attention, a federal appeals court ruled Monday against a man who served three decades in prison for a Brevard County murder he said he did not commit.
A three-judge panel of the 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a federal district judge in 2018 improperly overturned Crosley Green’s conviction. While the case was pending in the Atlanta Court of Appeals, Green was released from prison in 2021.
Green was convicted in the April 1989 shooting death of 21-year-old Charles “Chip” Flynn, who was found with a gunshot wound to the chest in a citrus grove. Kim Hallock, who was dating Flynn, said they were accosted by a man while parked in a secluded area of a park, robbed and taken to the citrus orchard, where she fled, according to court documents.
A jury found Green guilty of first degree murder in 1990 and he was sentenced to death, although he was sentenced to life in prison in 2009.
In the 2018 ruling, U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton Jr. granted what is known as a “writ of habeas corpus” that could lead to Green receiving a new trial or being released. Dalton ruled that prosecutors improperly withheld evidence that officers suspected Hallock in the shooting, according to court documents.
The Florida Attorney General’s office appealed Dalton’s decision. In a voluminous 159-page primary opinion on Monday, the appeals court said Dalton ruled incorrectly because issues regarding the evidence withheld had not been “exhausted” on appeals to state courts.
“The power of the federal courts to grant an order of habeas corpus quashing the conviction of a state prisoner on the ground that his conviction was obtained in violation of the Constitution of the United States is strictly limited,” said the main opinion, written by Judge Gerald Tjoflat. and joined by Judge William Traxler Jr. “First, the prisoner must have exhausted his remedies to the state. He took the claim to the state courts, and they dismissed it on the merits.
Judge Adalberto Jordan disagreed with the leading opinion’s conclusion that Green had not exhausted the issues in the state courts. But Jordan nonetheless wrote that he did not believe Green was entitled to relief on the issue of withheld evidence, which involved a prosecutor’s notes on the police officers’ suspicions.
In his 2018 ruling, however, Dalton said the evidence withheld was material.
“It is difficult to conceive of more important information for the defense and the development of defense strategy than the fact that the first officers to respond assessed the totality of the evidence as suggesting that the investigation should be directed to someone other than petitioner (Green),” Dalton wrote. “Thus, the evidence withheld was clearly material and the failure to disclose it was a … violation that undermines confidence in the outcome of the trial.”
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