On August 23, Billy Joe Holton walked out of the Duval County Jail after serving more than 26 years for a crime he has always maintained he did not commit. IPF has worked with Holton for eight years.
“We believe in his innocence and are working to prove it,” said Seth Miller, IPF executive director.
In 1986, Holton and his co-defendant, Tim Smith, were charged with the rape of a Jacksonville woman, which occurred in the presence of her 7-year old son. Smith cut a deal with the State – testify against Holton and receive a reduced sentence. Smith, facing multiple life sentences if convicted, decided to take the deal. Well, who wouldn’t take that deal?
Smith served 216 days and Holton was sentenced to life without parole.
The legal proceedings in Holton’s case are along two tracks – re-sentencing to correct the wrong sentence (in excess of the maximum allowed by law) and DNA testing to prove actual innocence.
The DNA evidence clearly demonstrates Smith lied about a lot of things, which brings great doubt to all of the things he said, including Holton’s participation in the crime. The victim’s son testified at the trial that Holton was not one of the perpetrators.
At a re-sentencing hearing on August 22, the judge recognized the disparity in the sentences handed down so long ago. Holton was re-sentenced to time-served plus probation. The ruling on the motion for a new trial based the DNA testing is pending.
Holton celebrated the first evening with his two sisters and their families. He is looking forward to rebuilding his life with the support of family and friends. We are looking forward to the day he is exonerated and truly is a free man.