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Louisiana Man Wrongfully Convicted In 1977 Attempted Rape Of Two Teens Now Free
Vincent Simmons was convicted in 1977 of the attempted rape of two teen girls and sentenced to 100 years in prison. A judge vacated his conviction this week.
A Louisiana man who spent 44 years behind bars was freed after a judge dismissed his case due to procedural violations at his 1977 trial.
Vincent Simmons, 69, was convicted by an all-white jury in the attempted aggravated rape of 14-year-old twin sisters Sharon and Karen Sanders in 1977 and sentenced to 100 years behind bars. Since becoming eligible in 1993, Simmons has been denied parole 16 times.
On Monday, Louisiana Judge Bill Bennett ruled that Simmons’ trial was unconstitutional because crucial evidence was withheld from the defense.
“Finally justice is served — it’s an embarrassment to the criminal justice system that it took this long to get Vincent to where he was at,” Justin Bonus, his attorney, told Oxygen.com on Tuesday.
Although a retrial would have been possible, Karen Sanders had indicated she wouldn’t testify, according to CBS News. Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles Riddle announced in court that he didn’t plan to retry Simmons, and all charges were dropped.
Bonus first filed motions to have his client’s case vacated in 2020, court documents obtained by Oxygen.com show. He argued that crucial case evidence — including initial discovery documents, medical reports, a confession by another man to the girls' cousin and lineup photos intended to incriminate Simmons — were withheld from Simmons’ defense team in 1977.
“These were docs that basically proved my clients innocence — medical reports, a line up photo, and stuff like that,” Bonus explained. “The conviction was vacated based on the fact that the original discovery wasn’t turned over. It rendered it an unfair trial.”
“He’s ecstatic, he’s free for the first time in almost 45 years,” Bonus added. “It’s amazing.”
News of Simmons’ release drew condemnation from at least one of the victims.
"He went in guilty,” Karen Sanders, 59, told CBS News. “He is guilty now and, guess what, he will die guilty. So, I am happy. I got 44 years.”
Sandra Sanders told CBS before the decision that she'd be willing to testify again, but her sister refused.
“There's coming a day when he'll stand before God and he will be miserable,” Karen Sanders said at the time. “He's already been judged guilty. He will die guilty. And when he goes and he stands before the Lord, he will still be guilty."
Neither woman gave a description of the man they say raped them when the reported the crime because, they told CBS, "All Blacks look alike" — though they admitted using a racial slur instead.
Simmons previously said he doesn’t hold any ill will towards the Sanders family.
"No, I am not mad at them. I mean that when I told them I forgive them that's what I mean ... forgiveness," Simmons said.
Simmons’ lawyer said that his client is currently spending time outside of Louisiana as he adjusts to life outside incarceration. A GoFundMe has been set up to help assist in his transition.
“He’s very thankful, he thanks god,” Bonus added.
The Avoyelles Parish District Attorney's Office didn't immediately respond to Oxygen.com's request for comment regarding Simmons' case on Tuesday afternoon.