A 71-year-old Oklahoma man who spent nearly 50 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit was acquitted by a judge Wednesday.
Former death row inmate Glynn Simmons was initially freed in July after prosecutors agreed that key evidence in his case was not turned over to his lawyers.
He is finally officially found innocent.
“This court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the crime for which Mr. Simmons was convicted, sentenced and imprisoned … was not committed by Mr. Simmons,” an Oklahoma district judge wrote in his decision Amy Palumbo.
Simmons was in prison for 48 years, one month and 18 days after his conviction for the 1974 murder of Carolyn Sue Rogers.
He is the longest-serving inmate to be exonerated in U.S. history, according to data compiled by the National Registry of Exonerations.
After the judge’s decision, Simmons raised his hands in victory outside the courthouse.
He told reporters he felt vindicated after persevering through decades behind bars to prove his innocence.
“It’s a lesson in resilience and tenacity,” Simmons said. “Don’t let anyone tell you it (an acquittal) can’t happen, because it really can.”
During his trial and prison, Simmons claimed he was in Louisiana when Rogers was shot at a liquor store in Edmond.
Simmons and co-defendant Don Roberts were convicted of the murder in 1975 and sentenced to death.
The death sentences were later commuted to life in prison in 1977 following Supreme Court rulings on capital punishment.
Roberts was paroled in 2008, but Simmons remained incarcerated.
In July, Palumbo ordered a new trial for Simmons after District Attorney Vicki Behena revealed that prosecutors withheld evidence from the defense in the case — including a police report in which eyewitnesses may have identified other suspects.
Behena said in September that there was no physical evidence linking Simmons to the crime scene and that he would not be retried.
Although he is finally free, Simmons is living off donations from a GoFundMe campaign, defense attorney Joe Norwood said Wednesday.
Norwood said his client is entitled to up to $175,000 in damages from the state for wrongful conviction and may file a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma City and the authorities involved in his arrest and conviction.
However, that money will likely be years away, according to the lawyer.
“Receiving compensation, and receiving compensation is not certain, is in the future and he has to support himself now,” Norwood said.
With postal wires