Man becomes longest ever serving inmate to be declared innocent

US News

A man who spent nearly 50 years in prison for murder has been exonerated by a judge – becoming the longest serving inmate to be declared innocent of a crime.

Glynn Simmons, 71, was released in July after prosecutors agreed that key evidence in his case was not turned over to his defence lawyers.

Oklahoma County District Judge Amy Palumbo ruled him innocent on Tuesday.

“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,” the ruling says.

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Mr Simmons is now eligible for up to $175,000 (£138,000) in compensation from the state for wrongful conviction.

The ruling also opens the door for a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma City and the law enforcement involved in Mr Simmons’ arrest and conviction, defence attorney Joe Norwood said Wednesday.

Compensation, though, is likely years away, Mr Norwood added.

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Mr Simmons is currently living on donations while undergoing treatment for cancer that was detected after his release from prison.

“Glynn is having to live off of GoFundMe, that’s literally how the man is surviving right now, paying rent, buying food,” Mr Norwood said.

“Getting him compensation, and getting compensation is not for sure, is in the future and he has to sustain himself now.”

Mr Simmons served 48 years, one month and 18 days in prison after his conviction, making him the longest imprisoned US inmate to be exonerated, according to data kept by The National Registry of Exonerations.

He said afterwards that he feels vindicated after his time in prison that included initially being sentenced to death.

“It’s a lesson in resilience and tenacity,” Mr Simmons said during a brief news conference following the ruling. “Don’t let nobody tell you that it (exoneration) can’t happen, because it really can.”

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Glynn Simmons reads the court order after he was ruled innocent. Pic: AP
Image:
Glynn Simmons reads the court order after he was ruled innocent. Pic: AP

He had always maintained his innocence, saying he was in Louisiana at the time Carolyn Sue Rogers was killed inside an Edmond liquor store in 1974.

Mr Simmons and co-defendant Don Roberts were both convicted in 1975 of the murder and initially sentenced to death.

Their sentences were reduced to life in prison in 1977 after US Supreme Court rulings related to capital punishment.

Roberts was released on parole in 2008.

Ms Palumbo ordered a new trial for Mr Simmons in July after District Attorney Vicki Behenna said prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence, including a police report that showed an eyewitness might have identified other suspects in the case.

Ms Behenna said in September there is no longer physical evidence in the case against Mr Simmons and announced she would not retry him, though she opposed declaring him actually innocent.

A spokesperson for Ms Behenna declined immediate comment on Wednesday.

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