A black Louisiana man was released from prison after 44 years when a judge ruled on Monday that his trial was unfair in 1977 when he was accused of attempted aggravated rape by two white twins, who were 14 at the time.
Vincent Simmons, who turns 70 on Thursday, has fought at least 16 times to clear his name, trying to present evidence that was not seen in his original trial when he was convicted by a jury of 11 white men and one black woman.
It’s unclear how Simmons was even a suspect in this case, and there was no physical evidence linking him to the rape of the twins, Sharon and Karen Sanders, now 59.
The twins told police they were raped by a black man and pointed Simmons in the police line.
Among the new evidence presented to the court that freed Simmons was a medical report two weeks after the incident, in which a doctor discovered that one of the accusers was a virgin. It is not clear which sister is being referred to.
The report also stated that the doctor found no signs of sexual abuse in any of the girls.
Also in their evidence was the girls’ testimony to the police about the alleged assailant, in which they said they did not know what he looked like and could not point to him in line. They said that he was black, and “all black and niggaz are similar to each other,” reports CBS.
The twins, who have not yet spoken publicly, claim he is guilty of raping them.
Vincent Simmons, a Louisiana black man accused of raping two white women in 1977, has been released after 44 years in prison.
Sharon and Karen Sanders, now 59, maintain that Simmons is guilty but have said they will not seek a new trial.
On Monday, a judge ruled that he did not get a fair trial in 1977, and instead of ordering a retrial, the district attorney dropped the charges against him. Above, he was seen with his shackles removed.
Simmons left the Angola State Prison on Monday, three days before his 70th birthday, where he was greeted by family and supporters.
Simmons has fought to clear his name at least 16 times in an attempt to present evidence that was not seen at his original trial.
Simmons also had an alibi, as his lawyers and supporters told CNN last year that he was involved in a bar fight on the other side of Avoyel parish on May 9, 1977, around 9 p.m., when the alleged rapes were reported to have taken place.
Simmons and his lawyers fought for years to have their evidence reviewed, to no avail. Their luck changed on Monday when Louisiana Judge Bill Bennett said that was enough to warrant a new trial, explaining in his ruling that he had “no opinion” on whether Simmons was guilty or not.
Avoyel County District Attorney Charles Riddle, however, said he did not want the victims to “suffer the trauma of another lawsuit” and dropped the charges, allowing Simmons to leave Angola’s state prison three days before his 70th birthday.
“It dawned on me, this is it. You know. Man, we’ve been waiting for this all these years,” Simmons told CBS News lead national correspondent David Begno when he found out he was a free man.
Simmons left the maximum security prison on Monday evening, where he was greeted by family and supporters. He was initially sentenced to 100 years in prison, one for each sister he accused of raping.
Dropping the charges, Riddle said, “Just in case anyone has any doubts, no, this is not a plea of innocence at all. We tried to get him released a few months ago because he’s done enough. May this case be closed and the victims put out of their misery once more.”
The Sanders sisters also appeared at the courthouse on Monday, their first court appearance for Simmons since he was convicted in 1977.
They said they would not ask the District Attorney for a new trial, but kept their accusations of Simmons’ guilt.
Among the evidence presented to the judge by Simmons’ attorney is a medical report a few weeks after the alleged rape, which found that one of his accusers was a virgin.
Simmons told CBS he plans to leave Louisiana and start a new life as an advocate for other inmates hoping to find freedom.
He went guilty. Now he’s guilty, and you know what, he’s going to die guilty. So, I’m happy. I’m 44 years old,” Karen told CBS.
Asked if he was angry with the sisters or harbored any ill will towards them, Simmons told CBS: “No, I’m not mad at them. I mean, when I told them that I forgive them, I meant…forgiveness.
Asked if the court of public opinion bothered him given that he was not acquitted, Simmons said: “People will be people and some of them will say, ‘He’s guilty’ despite the fact that they don’t have proof.” .’
Simmons, who was 25 at the time of the alleged attack, was convicted of aggravated attempted rape less than two months after his arrest.
In addition to the evidence that Simmons and his lawyers fought over, Justin Bonus, his last lawyer, also cited what he called the witness’s “explosive” statements.
“There is no physical evidence linking him to this crime. There is no blood. No sperm, no hair. Nothing,” Bonus told CBS.
“Sharon is talking about blood all over the car. Karen talks about the violent rape. Where is the evidence in the car? Where is the blood in the car? There is nothing that would confirm the commission of a crime, and there is definitely nothing that would confirm that this crime was committed by a black man, ”Bonus added.
The sisters told police about what happened two weeks after the alleged incident, saying they were abducted by a black man who raped them within three hours of stealing a car belonging to their 18-year-old cousin Keith Laborde, who, according to them, was locked. in the trunk.
Bonus presented the judge with claims made in a 2020 sworn statement by Laborde’s cousin Dana Brouillette, who said Laborde admitted that Simmons did not rape the sisters or put him in the trunk of a car, CBS reported.
“Dana Brouilette continues, ‘He told me he had consensual sex with one of the girls and he locked the other in the trunk while he was on Little California Road,'” Bonus said.
“Karen confessed to me that Kate raped her,” Brouillette said in 2020.
Sharon Sanders told CBS in response, “Oh my God. She is a sick woman. She is a sick woman to even go there. She had no idea. It is not normal. I’m sorry. But it hurts so much.
“Tell me it’s true and they believe it really happened, why didn’t they report it?” Karen Sanders said.
Asked by CBS if she had consensual sex with Laborde, Karen Sanders replied: “We were kids. … We experimented. So yes, if it’s consensual, that’s whatever word you want to attach to it.
Karen Sanders said the incident happened when she was 9 or 10 before she accused Simmons of rape.
“It’s new discovered evidence, as far as it goes, and it’s out of my head. This makes her look like she is no longer a victim. My client is a victim. … This is evidence that Vincent is on trial, his lawyers would run to this so quickly that they would blame Keith, ”said Bonus.
Meanwhile, Simmons told CBS that he plans to leave Louisiana and start a new life as an advocate for other prisoners hoping to find their freedom.