Vincent Simmons free after 44 years in prison for rape: he had had an “unfair” trial

from Andrea Marinelli

Convicted in 1977 for the attempted rape of twins, but his lawyers had not received some basic evidence. “It’s not a declaration of innocence,” said the district attorney, “but he spent enough time in jail”

After passing 44 years behind bars for an attempted rape of which he had always pleaded innocent, a 69-year-old African-American from Louisiana was released from prison on Monday, leaving Angola’s state penitentiary, Alcatraz del Sud, without being found innocent. By specifying that he had not assessed the inmate’s guilt, Judge Bill Bennett established that the man, Vincent Simmons, he had not received a fair trial and ordered a new one, but District Attorney Charles Riddle III gave up, dropping the charges against him and thus making him a free man within days of his 70th birthday. “If anyone has any doubts, this is by no means a declaration of innocence,” Riddle said. “We had already tried to release him months ago, because he spent enough time in jail. Let’s dismiss this case and let the victims no longer suffer ».

In 1977 Simmons was found guilty by a jury of 11 whites and one African Americanand was sentenced to 100 years in prison for attempted sexual assault against Karen and Sharon Sanders, white twins and fourteen year olds of Marksville, in rural Louisiana. Since then he had tried 16 times to ask for a retrial and, in 1998, his story was told in a well-known documentary, The Farm: Angola, USA. Only in recent days, however, Simmons has obtained a hearing thanks to an investigation by CBS News. The television network found that, at the time, his lawyers had not received some basic evidence: the testimony of the doctor who examined the girls and who declared that he found no signs of sexual violence, and the initial statement provided by the twins, who went to the police two weeks after the rape and said they did not know who had them assaulted, because “all black people look alike.”

Simmons left Angola’s prison on Monday Dead Man Walking And True Detectivethanking God. “He kept hope alive in me,” he told the cameras waiting for him at the exit. “Today God did this for me”. According to his lawyers, however, the credit is mainly due to the decision made by the district attorney, which it had the same effect as an acquittal. “Finally – the lawyer Justin Bonus clarified – the court has done him justice”. The twins, now 59, also agreed with the district attorney. “Thank God we were 44, we’re happy like this,” Sharon Sanders explained to local TV Kalb. “Now we are tired, we want to leave this story behind. He went to jail guilty, he is still guilty, and he will die guilty“.

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