Crosley Green, seen in 2003 at the Moore Justice Center in Viera, is serving his 21st year in prison. / 2003 FLORIDA TODAY file
When police arrived at 1:42 a.m., they found Chip Flynn face down on the ground, his hands tied behind his back with a shoelace.
"Get me out of here," he told sheriff's deputies. Flynn never disclosed the events leading to the shooting and died soon after.
Rumors swirled in the small community of Mims. Flynn's ex-girlfriend Kim Hallock, then 19, picked a man out of a photo lineup. It would be two months before Crosley Green would be arrested and charged with first-degree premeditated murder, kidnapping and robbery in Flynn's slaying.
The next year, a jury convicted Green of murder and recommended the death penalty by a vote of 8-4. Judge John Antoon upheld the recommendation.
Green is no longer on death row, the result of a Florida Supreme Court decision 18 years later in 2008 to overturn the penalty because the jury mistakenly heard about his juvenile criminal record during the trial.
Crowell and Moring, the Washington, D.C., law firm that now represents Green, is asking for a retrial, citing myriad issues, including recantations by key witnesses. The last part of a two-part hearing in front of Circuit Judge David Dugan is set for Aug. 8.
The state remains convinced Green is guilty of murder.
But Keith Harrison, who represents Green for Crowell and Moring,
believes there was a rush to judgment in the Green case and his client is innocent.
Green remains incarcerated; 2011 is the 21st year he has spent in prison.
Reviewing factsHarrison, who works in Washington, D.C., got involved in the Green case through the American Bar Association.
For 25 years, the Bar has had a program called Death Penalty Representation Project to connect defendants with competent lawyers in death penalty cases during trial, post-conviction and in federal courts.
"I was asked to find volunteer counsel for Crosley Green because there were no local defenders available to represent him," said Robin Maher, director of the project.She recruited Crowell & Moring, a firm that employs 500 attorneys nationwide and in London and Brussels, to work on the case for free.
"I started looking at this case, and looked at it from a prosecutor's perspective," said Harrison, who specializes in white collar crime. "I kept looking for more evidence and there was nothing there."
In his experience, the weakest cases are "one-witness ID" cases like Green's.
"I used to hate those as a prosecutor," said Harrison, who worked as an assistant district attorney in New York City early in his career.
He said Hallock's depiction of the kidnapping and the shooting did not make sense.
The problems, according to Harrison:
No DNA from Green was found on the shoelaces that tied Flynn's hands.
In addition, Harrison said, Hallock made several inconsistent statements, including changing her version of who tied Flynn's hands. She told a deputy at the scene that Green made her do it, while at the trial she said that Green tied the shoelace.
"It is a target with a bulls eye on Crosley. His picture is smaller and darker. Your eyes are naturally drawn to it," Harrison said. "It was the exact opposite of how it should be done."
Three main witnesses -- Sheila Green, Lonni Hillery and Jerome Murray -- have recanted, saying they lied about Green confessing to them. Sheila Green, who is Crosley's sister, later said that she made up the confession under pressure because she was facing sentencing on federal drug charges and hoped to get a favorable deal.
Another witness, Layman Layne, who testified in 2004 that Green confessed to shooting someone, said five years later that Green did not tell him anything.
Harrison said his legal team also has collected eight sworn affidavits from alibis who either saw Green or were with him away from the scene around the time of the shooting.
Repealing deathGreen's trial took place in the Melbourne courthouse on Nieman Avenue in early fall of 1990.
Rob Parker, Green's attorney at the time -- who now works as a prosecutor for the Brevard State Attorney's OfFice -- remembers the atmosphere in the courtroom being intense.
At one point, the state put a plea offer on the table.
"Listen, we can resolve this, if you will plea to a second-degree murder . . . we can avoid death," Parker remembers telling Green.
But Green, who was 32 at the time, refused.
"I'm not going to do it. I didn't do it," Green told his attorney.
Parker was dumbfounded.
"My sense was pretty much I was begging him," Parker said.
If he had accepted that deal, he would have been a free man by now.
The next year, Green was on Florida's death row. But the appeals that follow every death penalty were just beginning.
In 1999, the Green case got national attention when Paul Ciolino, a brash tough-talking investigator, arrived in Brevard County to pursue the case.
Ciolino, a Chicago native, had built a reputation for helping overturn death penalty cases in other parts of the country.
He and three other investigators started questioning some of the witnesses in Green's original trial. A CBS News crew traveled with them as they shot footage for an episode of the TV newsmagazine "48 Hours."
Investigators, who offered a $25,000 reward for information, outlined 132 problems with the Green case at a press conference in Cocoa Beach.
"He was not the greatest man. But they manufactured a murder case against this guy," Ciolino said recently.
That same year, in 1999, Brevard-Seminole State Attorney Norman Wolfinger asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to revisit the case.
But the 11-month investigation concluded that the hairs found in Flynn's truck tested for mitochondrial DNA did not exclude Green as a possible suspect.But the inmate kept up the challenge.
In 2007, the Florida Supreme Court upheld his conviction but ordered a re-sentencing.
Two years later, in August 2009, he was sentenced to life. The Florida Department of Corrections likely will begin an investigation in 2013 as to when he can be paroled.
High court ruleAssistant State Attorney Chris White and Phil Williams, an assistant state attorney who later became sheriff, were the prosecutors during Green's original trial.
White is scheduled to retire in September. Wayne Holmes, the chief of staff for the Brevard State Attorney's Office, will now handle the Green case locally.
Holmes points to the state's high court listing a "plethora" of evidence of Green's guilt: trial testimony from Hallock, testimony from witnesses who saw Green at Holder Park and original testimony from the recanting witnesses.
He cites a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court in 2008 that the recantations by the three witnesses were unreliable and dubious and said he "respectfully disagrees" with the trial court having another hearing.
"They keep repeating that the witnesses recanted, but that issue was specifically dealt with in 2008 by Judge (Bruce) Jacobus and the Florida Supreme Court," Holmes said.
Lost in all this, he said, was the nightmare that the Flynn family had to go through.
"In their minds, they did not see justice in their lifetime," he said. "It is something that has gone on and on. There has never been a finality to it."
Seeking the truthHarrison believes the Flynn family needs to know the truth about their loss.
His firm could have walked away after Green was taken off death row.
But they did not.
At a hearing in May, where Harrison presented two alibi witnesses, Green appeared thin and frail, almost overwhelmed at the sight of so many attorneys rallying for him.
Appeals are possible if Circuit Judge David Dugan denies a retrial. Harrison said his team will pursue the case in federal court if unsuccessful in Florida.
"We are not walking away," he said.
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