(RightWing.org) – Existence inside a maximum-security prison is one that many people go to great lengths to avoid, generally by not committing crimes that will put them there. Many convicted inmates will swear that they are totally innocent of any wrongdoing that would be deserving of such a fate, and a vast majority of them would be lying through their teeth. But what of those who are telling the truth? There’s not much worse than the living nightmare of a person spending time behind bars unjustly.
Edmond, Oklahoma, 1975
Glynn Ray Simmons and co-defendant Don Roberts were accused of walking into a liquor store, robbing the establishment, murdering one of the clerks, and leaving an 18-year-old girl for dead with a bullet in her head. In due time, they were arrested, tried, and convicted on all counts and sentenced to death.
The capital punishment aspect was eventually changed to life in prison without parole per a SCOTUS moratorium on the practice. However, to paraphrase the long-time radio broadcast legend Paul Harvey, and now for the rest of the story…
Not So Fast Forward
On July 20, 2023, at the request of Oklahoma County District Attorney (DA) Vicki Behenna, District Judge Amy Palumbo vacated Simmons’s conviction, declared the need for a new trial, and ordered his release from prison after a staggering 48 years. Now, just days before Christmas, the judge presented him with one whopper of a present, a complete vindication of his claims of innocence.
On September 11, the DA announced that she would not seek to retry Simmons because “the state will not be able to meet its burden at trial,” which is to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime they are accused of. Part of her reasoning was the fact that over the course of time, witnesses are no longer available or dead, any physical evidence is long gone, and the defense attorneys would not be able to offer an alternate theory of the crime, which is their constitutional right.
Not the Only Case
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, it is believed that Simmons is the holder of the dubious record for longest wrongful incarceration at 48 years, one month, 18 days. However, their list contains dozens of names from across the country of people who spent three decades or more after being wrongfully convicted.
Americans came face to face with the issue in 2020 when another name from the registry graced their television sets on “America’s Got Talent” (AGT). Archie Williams stepped onto the stage for his first performance to cover Elton John’s megahit “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” which garnered him four yesses from the panel of judges, but it was his back story that moved the country.
Williams was wrongly convicted of rape and attempted murder of a woman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1983, for which he was sentenced to life without parole, and spent the next 36 years in prison. His story had such a profound effect on the music industry mogul and lead judge of the Got Talent franchises in America and the United Kingdom, Simon Cowell, that he became an ambassador for the Innocence Project.
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