Glynn Simmons, 71, has emerged from the shadows of injustice as the longest-serving inmate to be declared innocent after spending nearly five decades behind bars for a crime he did not commit. The gripping tale of resilience and tenacity unfolded in Edmond, Oklahoma, where Simmons was exonerated for the 1974 murder of Carolyn Rogers at a local liquor store.
Simmons, who had steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout his arduous journey, was finally vindicated by Oklahoma County District Judge Amy Palumbo. In a ruling that reverberated through the courtroom, Judge Palumbo declared, “This court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the offense for which Mr. Simmons was convicted, sentenced, and imprisoned… was not committed by Mr. Simmons.”
The weight of 48 years, one month, and 18 days of wrongful imprisonment lifted off Simmons’ shoulders as he stood before the world, a symbol of resilience and hope. His unwavering belief in his innocence had sustained him through the darkest of times, including an initial death row sentence. “It’s a lesson in resilience and tenacity,” Simmons declared during a brief news conference following the ruling. “Don’t let nobody tell you that it (exoneration) can’t happen, because it really can.”
Simmons’ journey to freedom was fraught with injustice and withheld evidence. It was only in July, after his release, that prosecutors acknowledged the failure to disclose crucial evidence to his defense lawyers. This revelation led to a new trial being ordered by Judge Palumbo, who recognized the grave miscarriage of justice that had occurred.
The 1975 conviction of Simmons and his co-defendant, Don Roberts, had sent shockwaves through the community. Both men were initially sentenced to death for the murder of Carolyn Sue Rogers. However, their sentences were later commuted to life in prison following U.S. Supreme Court rulings on capital punishment.
While Roberts was released on parole in 2008, Simmons languished behind bars, his innocence obscured by a flawed system. But the tide turned in his favor when District Attorney Vicki Behenna admitted the failure to turn over crucial evidence, including a police report that suggested other suspects may have been involved in the crime.
Behenna, however, stopped short of declaring Simmons actually innocent, despite the absence of physical evidence against him. Nevertheless, the ruling by Judge Palumbo paves the way for Simmons to seek compensation from the state for his wrongful conviction. It also opens the door for a potential federal lawsuit against Oklahoma City and the law enforcement agencies involved in his arrest and conviction.
As Simmons embarks on the long road to justice, he faces new challenges. Diagnosed with cancer after his release, he relies on the generosity of others to sustain himself. Living off donations and GoFundMe, Simmons battles not only for compensation but also for his very survival.
The story of Glynn Simmons serves as a stark reminder of the flaws within the criminal justice system and the resilience of the human spirit. It is a tale that captivates and inspires, reminding us that the pursuit of truth and justice knows no bounds.