Glynn Simmons acquitted after serving 48 years in Oklahoma – believed to be the longest ever exonerated

Doug Houck/The Oklahoman/AP

Glynn Simmons reads a plea of ​​not guilty Tuesday as his attorneys and relatives look on in Oklahoma County District Court in Oklahoma City.



CNN

An Oklahoma judge on Tuesday declared innocent a man who spent 48 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit — believed to be the longest time served by someone wrongfully convicted in the United States.

“This is a day we’ve been waiting for for a long, long time. It finally came,” Glynn Simmons, 70, he told reporters, according to local news outlet KFOR, after a hearing in which an Oklahoma District Court judge issued an order formally declaring him not guilty.

“We can say that justice has finally been served today,” he said. “I’m happy too.”

Simmons served 48 years, one month and 18 days after his conviction, earning him a grim distinction: he served the longest wrongful imprisonment of any exonerated person in the United States, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. The average length of wrongful imprisonment is just over nine years, according to the registry, which tracks and catalogs acquittals since 1989.

“Obviously, we’re very happy,” Joe Norwood, Simmons’ attorney, said in an interview with CNN on Thursday. “He felt his name was vindicated … to be cleared that he was innocent and didn’t do this. I’m really happy that all his work has paid off.”

Simmons was released on bail in July when the judge vacated the 1975 conviction and sentence at the request of the Oklahoma County district attorney, who said in a news release that her office found that evidence had been withheld from Simmons’ defense attorneys — a so-called Brady violation.

In September, District Attorney Vicki Behena announced she would not seek a retrial, citing in part the lack of physical evidence.

Simmons’ four-plus-decade trial officially ended Tuesday with Judge Amy Palumbo’s amended order dismissing the case against him with prejudice.

“This court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the crime for which Mr. Simmons was convicted, sentenced and imprisoned in the case at hand, including all lesser included offenses, was not committed by Mr. Simmons.” , Palumbo stated in the order.

CNN has reached out to the prosecutor for comment on the judge’s not guilty plea.

Doug Houck/The Oklahoman/AP

Glynn Simmons is seen after Judge Amy Palumbo ruled to uphold his plea of ​​”actual innocence” during a hearing in Oklahoma County District Court on Tuesday.

Simmons was just 22 when he and another man were convicted of killing Carolyn Sue Rogers during a liquor store robbery on Dec. 30, 1974, according to the district attorney’s office and the National Registry of Exonerations.

The prosecution’s case at trial hinged on the testimony of an 18-year-old woman who was shot in the head during the robbery, the clerk’s office said.

Interviewed by police days later, the woman said she couldn’t remember much. But by the time of the trial, the woman said she had identified Simmons and his co-defendant in a lineup, the clerk’s office said. She testified that she did not identify any other suspects, when in fact she identified four other individuals during eight separate groupings, according to the registry.

None of them is Simmons or his co-defendant, Norwood said.

At trial, Simmons testified that he wasn’t even in Oklahoma at the time of the robbery: He was in Harvey, Louisiana, he said, playing pool. Several witnesses also testified they saw him in Harvey that day and the day after, the clerk’s office said.

Simmons and his co-defendant were eventually convicted, the district attorney’s office said in a release, and initially sentenced to death. Their sentences were later commuted to life imprisonment eventually as a result of a Supreme Court ruling that found the death penalty unconstitutional due to arbitrary and uneven application, the secretariat said.

Simmons’ co-defendant was paroled in 2008, the district attorney’s office said.

Over the years, Simmons has maintained his innocence, the office said. Eventually, a private investigator found a report that the 18-year-old witness had identified other subjects and had thought over her identifications overnight before deciding she was confident in them. That report was never shared with Simmons’ defense attorneys during his trial, Norwood and the clerk’s office said.

Simmons and his lawyers now hope he can get some compensation for the time he was wrongfully imprisoned, Norwood told CNN.

Tuesday’s order, he said, allows them to begin the process of seeking that compensation, which in Oklahoma is capped at $175,000. But there’s no guarantee, Norwood added, and they may have to fight for it in court.

In the meantime, Simmons is looking for financial help through GoFundMe — his only source of income after nearly five decades of failing to acquire skills he could use to make a living, Norwood said. In addition, Simmons was diagnosed with stage four cancer and underwent chemotherapy.

“Between his medical condition and being 70 years old and (having) the ability to take care of himself robbed from him,” Norwood said, “he needs people’s help.”

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