Oklahoma City –
An Oklahoma judge has acquitted a man who served nearly 50 years for murder, making him the longest-serving inmate to be found not guilty.
Glyn Simmons, 71, was released in July after prosecutors agreed that key evidence in his case was not turned over to the defense, but he was found not guilty on Tuesday.
According to Oklahoma County District Judge Amy Palumbo’s decision, “This court finds clearly and convincingly that the crimes for which Mr. Simmons was convicted, sentenced, and imprisoned were not committed by Mr. Simmons… This was confirmed based on certain evidence.”
Simmons served 48 years, one month, and 18 days in prison since his conviction, making him the longest exonerated U.S. prisoner, according to data kept by the National Registry of Exonerations.
Simmons has since said he feels vindicated after spending time in prison, including his first death sentence.
“This is a lesson in resilience and perseverance,” Simmons said at a brief news conference after the verdict. “Don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t happen. It really can happen.”
Simmons has pleaded not guilty, saying he was in Louisiana at the time of the 1974 murder of Carolyn Sue Rogers inside an Edmond liquor store.
He and co-defendant Don Roberts were both convicted of murder in 1975 and initially sentenced to death. Their sentences were commuted to life in prison in 1977 following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the death penalty. Mr. Roberts was paroled in 2008.
In July, Palumbo said District Attorney Vicki Behena said prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence, including a police report showing witnesses may have identified other suspects in the case. As a result, a new trial was ordered for Mr. Simmons.
Behenna announced in September that there would no longer be any physical evidence in the case against Simmons and would not retry him, but he objected to actually declaring his innocence.
A spokesperson for Behena declined immediate comment Wednesday.
The ruling makes Simmons eligible for up to $175,000 in damages from the state for his wrongful conviction and a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma City and law enforcement agencies involved in Simmons’ arrest and conviction. The door is now open, defense attorney Joe Norwood said Wednesday.
But compensation will likely be years away, Norwood said, and Simmons is currently living off donations while undergoing treatment for cancer discovered after his release.
“Mr. Glynn has to rely on GoFundMe to survive. That’s literally how the man is surviving right now, paying rent and buying food,” Norwood said. “It’s not certain that he will get compensation, but that’s in the future and he has to support himself now.”