Crosley Green is in the fight of his life to seek justice from being convicted for a murder he did not commit
Support is growing for Crosley Green, a man who spent more than three decades in prison for a murder he did not commit, with groups of prominent lawyers, judges, and professors intending to file amicus briefs on or before February 23, 2023 in support of his petition seeking review before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The groups are represented by top law firms, including:
- Akerman representing a group of former prosecutors;
- DLA Piper representing a group of former state-court judges; and
- Cozen O’Connor representing a group of law school professors.
At issue is whether the Supreme Court will uphold the 60-year-old Brady doctrine, a law that requires prosecutors to turn over material exculpatory evidence to the defense before trial. In Green’s case, prosecutors withheld key evidence pointing to another suspect.
The Supreme Court’s decision on Green’s petition could have far-reaching repercussions for all criminal defendants in the United States.
“Former prosecutors, state-court judges, and law professors from across the political spectrum have come together to say that Mr. Green’s case raises issues that are crucial to our constitutional form of criminal justice. These lawyers are on the front lines of our justice system and understand the reality of what is required to ensure criminal defendants receive a fair trial and are able to obtain a new trial if they are wrongfully convicted. They are sounding the alarm for what Mr. Green’s case means for our justice system if the Supreme Court does not take this case,” said Crowell & Moring partner Keith J. Harrison.
Kenneth B. Nunn, Professor at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law and a member from the group of law school professors who will file an amicus brief, notes, “We are a group of law professors who either provide pro bono services in the criminal area or who teach criminal law, criminal procedure, or constitutional law. We are filing this amicus brief because we believe the Eleventh Circuit has crafted an unreasonable restriction on habeas relief that will make it harder for persons who claim innocence to have their case reviewed by federal courts.”
Green served 32 years in prison, including 19 years on Florida’s death row, while maintaining his innocence. He was convicted on the testimony of the sole eyewitness, the victim’s ex-girlfriend, who identified Green as the perpetrator.
Green was conditionally released in 2021, after a federal court found that Brevard County, Fla., prosecutors withheld interview notes of the lead prosecutor memorializing the statements of the first-responding police officers to the crime scene, explaining their conclusion that the victim’s ex-girlfriend—not Mr. Green—committed the crime.
The notes stated that the officers “suspect the girl did it” and that she “changed her story a couple of times,” and they marshal the evidence supporting the officers’ conclusion, including the ex-girlfriend’s inconsistent statements about who tied the victim’s hands. The prosecutor’s notes were not turned over to the defense prior to trial.
The petition reads:
“With no physical evidence tying Green to the crime, before an all-white jury with the sole eyewitness claiming a ‘black guy’ did it, [the girlfriend’s] credibility as well as the credibility of the police investigation was critical to the outcome of the trial. But the first two police officers on the scene knew the teenager’s claim that a ‘black guy did it’ was nothing more than a hoax.”
U.S. District Court Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr. of the Middle District of Florida agreed, ruling “it is difficult to conceive of information more material to the defense… than the fact that the initial responding officers evaluated the totality of evidence as suggesting that the investigation should be directed toward someone other than [Green].”
But the State of Florida appealed, and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Green’s victory last year, ruling that prosecutors did not need to disclose exculpatory evidence to defense counsel because it would not have been admissible at trial and was not material to the outcome.
If the Supreme Court does not consider Green’s petition, his conviction will be reinstated and the State of Florida could return him to prison at 65 years of age.
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