22 Dec Nigeria: Oklahoma Man Exonerated After 48 Years in Landmark Case
By Ahmad Hadizat Omayoza, Mamos Nigeria
In a historic ruling, an Oklahoma judge has declared Glynn Simmons innocent after spending an agonizing 48 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, marking the longest known wrongful sentence in the United States. This decision came after crucial evidence in Simmons’ case, which could have exonerated him, was not disclosed to his defense lawyers.
Glynn Simmons, now 70, was released in July following the discovery of this withheld evidence. On Monday, the county district attorney acknowledged that there was insufficient evidence to justify a new trial. The final exoneration order was issued on Tuesday by Judge Amy Palumbo.
Judge Palumbo stated, “This court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the offence for which Mr. Simmons was convicted, sentenced and imprisoned… was not committed by Mr. Simmons.” This verdict serves as a testament to Simmons’ resilience and determination throughout this arduous journey.
Simmons, who had maintained his innocence since his conviction at the age of 22, was sentenced to life in prison for the 1974 murder of Carolyn Sue Rogers during a liquor store robbery in an Oklahoma City suburb. Originally facing the death penalty, Simmons and his co-defendant, Don Roberts, saw their sentences reduced following US Supreme Court rulings on capital punishment.
Wearing a grey hooded sweater and fedora, Simmons smiled as the court officially declared his innocence. Addressing reporters, he expressed the significance of this moment, emphasizing, “What’s been done can’t be undone, but there can be accountability.”
The breakthrough in Simmons’ case came when a district court vacated his sentence in July, revealing that prosecutors had failed to disclose crucial evidence, including a witness who had identified other suspects. Both Simmons and Roberts had been convicted based on testimony from a teenager who later contradicted her own statements and pointed to several other men during police line-ups.
While Roberts was released on parole in 2008, Simmons is now grappling with liver cancer. A GoFundMe campaign has been initiated to support his living costs and chemotherapy, reflecting the challenges he continues to face even after his release.
This case underscores the flaws in the justice system and the importance of transparency. Wrongfully convicted individuals in Oklahoma are eligible for compensation, with Simmons potentially qualifying for up to $175,000 (£138,000). As Simmons battles health issues, this exoneration offers a bittersweet moment of justice and accountability.