A Florida man who served three decades behind bars for a murder he says he didn’t commit returned to prison Monday after spending the past two years building a life outside prison walls.
Since his conditional release in 2021 amid appeals, Crosley Green, 65, had held a job at a machine grafting facility, attended church and spent time with his grandchildren. He even fell in love.
“I’ve been with this man for two years,” his fiancée, Kathy Spikes, told CNN. “To not be able to have a 5 o’clock phone call to say, ‘I’m home,’ for me to say, ‘What do you want for dinner,’ that’s what I’m anxious about.”
His return to prison came about two weeks after US District Judge Roy Dalton ruled he must turn himself in to the authorities by April 17 to resume his life sentence.
Green surrendered to Florida’s Department of Corrections at 5 p.m. Monday, according to his attorneys. He was accompanied by Spikes, family members and his lawyers Keith Harrison and Jeane Thomas, who have represented him pro bono for 15 years.
Green was allowed to leave prison on conditional release in 2021, about three years after a federal court in Orlando overturned his conviction. The state of Florida appealed that decision and won last year, and Green’s conviction was reinstated. 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.
“I can’t be angry at no one,” Green told CNN. “I don’t want no one else to be angry at no one. Anger isn’t going to take you nowhere. Ain’t going to do (anything) but harm you. I’m happy. I’m not happy about going back. I’ve got my future wife, I’ve got my friends that came up here with me. I’ve got my family.”
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.
Green’s only options for remaining out of prison now are clemency or parole, according to his legal team.
“We think he’s an outstanding candidate for parole,” Thomas said. “He’s demonstrated that in the last two years he’s been under supervised release. He’s been an incredibly successful person on the outside with his work, his church and his family.”
Thomas has pointed 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.
Since his release, Green 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.”
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 further attributed his perseverance to his faith in comments to CNN.
“If everyone can just believe in themselves the way I believe in myself, with the Lord, then you can understand and say the things that I can say by not letting anything come between you and your faith,” he said.
Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.