Man exonerated after wrongfully spending 48 years in prison for murder is living off handouts after cancer diagnosis

21 December 2023, 08:20

Glynn Simmons was exonerated this week
Glynn Simmons was exonerated this week. Picture: GoFundMe

By Kit Heren

A man has been exonerated after spending 48 years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit, meaning he served the longest sentence for wrongful imprisonment in US history.

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Glynn Simmons, 71, was freed in July after prosecutors admitted that evidence against him in the Oklahoma 1974 killing of Carolyn Sue Rogers had not been turned over to the defence in time.

Oklahoma County District Judge Amy Palumbo formally ruled Mr Simmons innocent on Tuesday.

She said: "This court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the offence for which Mr Simmons was convicted, sentenced and imprisoned in the case at hand, including any lesser included offences, was not committed by Mr Simmons."

Mr Simmons said: "This is the day we've been waiting on for a long, long time. It finally came.

"We can say justice was done today, finally, and I'm happy."

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Mr Simmons is now in line for as much as £138,000 ($175,000) in wrongful conviction compensation from the state of Oklahoma.

But he is living on donations from a GoFundMe, and is undergoing treatment for cancer that was diagnosed after he was released from prison.

And Mr Simmons' lawyer Joe Norwood said on Wednesday that state compensation might be years ago.

"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' eight years, one month, and eighteen day behind bars makes him the longest-serving wrongfully-imprisoned convict in US history, statistics show.

His lawyer Mr Norwood added: "He had 50 years stolen from him, the prime of his work life when he could have been getting experiences, developing skills.

"That was taken from him, by no fault of his own, by other people."

Although Mr Simmons said that justice had been done, others said that exonerating him didn't go far enough.

Kim Cole, a US civil rights activist, said: "It’s too late for justice, at this point, but it’s not too late for retribution.

"Retribution is due."

Carolyn Sue Rogers was killed in a suburb of Oklahoma City, in the US south, in 1974. Mr Simmons and co-defendant Don Roberts were found guilty and sentenced to death. Their sentences were reduced to life in prison in 1977, and Mr Roberts was paroled in 2008.

Mr Simmons had always maintained his innocence, and said he was in Louisiana at the time Ms Rogers was killed.

After Mr Simmons was released in July, prosecutors initially said they would not retry him, but were reluctant to agree to declaring him innocent.