Oklahoma Judge Declares Innocence for Man Wrongfully Imprisoned for 50 Years

Oklahoma County District Judge Amy Palumbo has declared Glynn Simmons, 71, innocent after he spent nearly 50 years in prison for a murder conviction. Simmons, released in July, became the longest-serving U.S. inmate to be exonerated, serving 48 years, one month, and 18 days. He had been sentenced to death row in 1975, along with co-defendant Don Roberts, for the 1974 slaying of Carolyn Sue Rogers in an Edmond liquor store. Simmons consistently maintained his innocence, stating he was in Louisiana at the time of the crime.

The ruling came after evidence, crucial to the case, was not disclosed to Simmons’ defense team. District Attorney Vicki Behenna admitted the failure and disclosed that a police report, containing information that might have led to other suspects, had not been provided. Palumbo ordered a new trial in July, and Simmons, having already served an extensive sentence, was released.

Following the exoneration, Simmons expressed feeling vindicated, emphasizing the importance of resilience and tenacity. “Don’t let nobody tell you that it (exoneration) can’t happen, because it really can,” Simmons said during a brief news conference. The judge’s ruling not only opens the possibility of state compensation of up to $175,000 for wrongful conviction but also sets the stage for a potential federal lawsuit against Oklahoma City and involved law enforcement.

Simmons’ co-defendant, Don Roberts, had been released on parole in 2008. While there is no longer physical evidence in the case against Simmons, District Attorney Behenna, who opposed declaring him actually innocent, has not provided immediate comment. The compensation process is expected to be lengthy, and Simmons, currently relying on donations, is undergoing cancer treatment discovered after his release. Defense attorney Joe Norwood stressed the urgency of addressing Simmons’ immediate needs while acknowledging the uncertainties surrounding future compensation.

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