On July 20, 2018, a federal judge overturned the conviction of former Florida death row prisoner Crosley Green, ordering the state to either initiate proceedings for a new trial or allow Mr. Green to finally walk free. For the past decade, Crowell & Moring has provided extraordinary pro bono representation to Mr. Green, winning first a commutation of his death sentence to life in prison, and now a complete reversal of the conviction that originally sent him to death row. Mr. Green has long maintained his innocence, and Crowell’s tireless investigation has uncovered a wealth of evidence to support his claim that he was wrongfully convicted.
On September 5, 1990, an all-white jury convicted Mr. Green and sentenced him to death for the murder of Charles Flynn. Mr. Green maintained his innocence of the crime throughout his trial and subsequent appeals. In 2008, the Project recruited a pro bono team from Crowell & Moring to represent Mr. Green in his post-conviction proceedings. Crowell argued that trial counsel for Mr. Green failed to independently verify a prior conviction that the state used to argue in favor of the death penalty. Crowell’s investigation revealed that Mr. Green had been convicted of a significantly less serious offense than the jury was told, and that the conviction for that offense had later been vacated. Because trial counsel had a duty to independently verify this information before it was presented to the jury, the Supreme Court of Florida found counsel ineffective at the penalty phase of trial and vacated Mr. Green’s death sentence. When the State appealed, Crowell argued before the Florida Supreme Court and convinced them to affirm. Crowell represented Mr. Green at the new penalty phase hearing, where they presented a compelling—and ultimately successful—case for a life sentence.
Despite having already won this remarkable victory for their client, Crowell remained steadfast in their commitment to vindicating Mr. Green’s innocence. Their continued investigation uncovered eight alibi witnesses who made sworn statements that they were with him at the time of the crime. Additionally, investigators discovered that the State had withheld evidence that the police officers who first arrived at the crime scene independently concluded that Flynn’s girlfriend, who was also present at the time of the shooting, had committed the crime and fabricated the story about a “black man” kidnapping them to cover it up. She gave police differing accounts of what had happened, and the details she provided did not match the physical evidence at the scene—for example, she alleged that the gunman had entered and exited the victim’s vehicle, but Mr. Green’s fingerprints were not found at the scene, and no other physical evidence tied him to the crime. Evaluating this evidence on federal habeas review, the District Court for the Middle District of Florida wrote, it is “difficult to conceive of information more material to the defense and the development of defense strategy than the fact that the initial responding officers evaluated the totality of the evidence as suggesting that the investigation should be directed toward someone other than Petitioner.” Accordingly, the Court found that the State had violated their obligation under Brady v. Maryland to turn material, favorable or exculpatory evidence over to the defense, and vacated Mr. Green’s conviction. The State has appealed the ruling, and courts have issued a stay of a decision pending the outcome of appeal. Meanwhile, Crowell continues its fight to vindicate Mr. Green’s claims and protect his rights.
Crowell & Moring received the Project’s 2018 Exceptional Service Award for their long history of extraordinary service to indigent death sentenced prisoners--including Crosley Green, Ohio death row prisoner Tony Apanovitch, and many others. The award was presented in September at the Project’s 2018 Volunteer Recognition & Awards Dinner.