On Tuesday, a court in Oklahoma ruled that Glynn Simmons, who was falsely convicted of a crime for which he did not commit, was innocent. Simmons' 48-year jail sentence is thought to be the longest ever held by an American wrongfully convicted person.
We had been looking forward to today for a very long time. The 70-year-old Simmons told reporters that "it finally came" following the hearing at which an Oklahoma County District Court judge publicly declared him innocent, as reported by the local news site KFOR.
"Today, justice was served, at last," he declared. "And I'm content."
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, Simmons had the longest wrongful incarceration of any exoneree in the United States, having served 48 years, one month, and eighteen days after his conviction.
The registry, which keeps track of and documents exonerations dating back to 1989, indicates that the average time of a wrongful incarceration is slightly over nine years.
Joe Norwood, an attorney for Simmons, told CNN on Thursday that "obviously, we're just very happy." He was relieved that his identity had been cleared and that he was not the perpetrator. I'm very glad that all of his hard work has paid off for him.
After the judge overturned the 1975 verdict and sentence at the request of the Oklahoma County District Attorney, who claimed in a press release that her office had discovered information had been hidden from Simmons' defense attorneys—a so-called Brady violation—Simmons was freed on bond in July.
Vicki Behenna, the district attorney, declared in September that she would not pursue a new trial, partly due to the absence of tangible proof.
Judge Amy Palumbo's modified order, which dismissed the lawsuit against Simmons with prejudice, marked the official end of Simmons' more than four-decade ordeal on Tuesday.
"This Court finds by clear and persuasive evidence that Mr. Simmons did not commit the offense for which he was found guilty, condemned, and imprisoned in the case at hand, including any lesser incorporated offenses,” Palumbo said in the judgment.
Simmons was only 22 years old when he and another man were found guilty on December 30, 1974, of killing Carolyn Sue Rogers during a robbery at a liquor shop, according to the National Registry of Exonerations and the district attorney's office.
The evidence of an eighteen-year-old lady who was shot in the head during the heist was crucial to the prosecution's case at trial, according to the Registry.
Days later, when the woman was questioned by police, she said she couldn't recall anything. However, the Registry stated that by the time of the trial, the woman claimed to have recognized Simmons and his co-defendant in a lineup. In her testimony, she claimed not to have seen any other suspects; nevertheless, the Registry states that she saw four other people in eight different lineups.
According to Norwood, none of them were Simmons or his co-defendant.
Simmons stated during his trial that he was playing pool in Harvey, Louisiana at the time of the heist, not even in Oklahoma. According to the Registry, numerous witnesses also stated in their testimony that they saw him in Harvey both that day and the next.
According to a news release from the district attorney's office, Simmons and his co-defendant were ultimately found guilty and initially given the death penalty. The Supreme Court's decision that the death penalty was unconstitutional because it was applied arbitrarily and unevenly led to the ultimate modification of their sentences to life in prison, according to the Registry.
2008 saw the release of Simmons' co-defendant on parole, according to the district attorney's office.
Simmons continued to assert his innocence throughout time, according to the Registry. After some time, a private detective came across a report stating that the eighteen-year-old witness had recognized other individuals and had given her identifications some thought overnight before determining she was comfortable with them. According to Norwood and the Registry, the report was never given to Simmons' defense lawyers at the time of his trial.
According to CNN, Simmons and his lawyers are now hoping to get paid for the time he spent being unlawfully imprisoned.
He claimed that the ruling on Tuesday enables them to start the process of pursuing that compensation, which is restricted at $175,000 in Oklahoma. Norwood clarified that there is no assurance and that they might need to defend it in court.
Simmons is currently looking for financial assistance through a GoFundMe, which is his only source of income after failing to acquire skills that would allow him to earn a living for almost fifty years, according to Norwood. Simmons is also receiving chemotherapy after receiving a stage four cancer diagnosis.
Norwood stated, "He needs help from people because of his medical condition, the fact that he is 70 years old, and the fact that his ability to provide for himself was taken away from him."