100 years in prison without any reliable evidence: the result of a broken criminal justice system
About Vincent Simmons
Vincent was featured in the HBO documentary "The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison." In 1977, he was convicted of two counts of attempted aggravated rape, crimes that he did not commit. Despite evidence of prejudice, suppression of evidence, and alibi witnesses, the Louisiana courts have continuously denied his Brady Claims, and his motions for an evidentiary hearing. Vincent is one of many Angola inmates who have been rushed through the system and presumed guilty because of race.
On July 28, 1977, Vincent Simmons, a black Afrcan-American was convicted of the attempted aggravated rape of twin white girls, Karen and Sharon Sanders, and sentenced to 100 years in prison. He has been at Angola prison for forty-three years and counting. He was convicted purely on the basis of the flawed and contradictory testimony of the two alleged victims and their cousin, Keith Laborde. There was no physical evidence of any kind against Vincent, in fact no physical evidence that the rapes ever actually occurred.
On May 22, Karen and Sharon Sanders gave statements to Avoyelles Parish police that they were violently raped by a black man.
When the interviewing officer asked them if they could identify their attacker, they said they could not, since “all blacks look alike.” Armed with this information, the officers deduced that this sounded exactly like Vincent Simmons.
Vincent was picked up the next day and put into a line-up. In this line-up, he is the only person wearing handcuffs.
The Sanders twins and LaBorde were put into a viewing room simultaneously and one, then the rest, identified the man wearing handcuffs in the line-up.
There is no evidence that they knew their attacker’s name.
Two officers then escorted Vincent into another room where Vincent was pressured into signing a confession and refused. And then one of these officers shot Vincent in the chest.The officers claimed that Vincent, still in handcuffs, disarmed one of them, pointed the gun at him, shouted, “You will never take me alive,” and fired repeatedly, but was unable to disengage the safety. The other officer then shot Vincent two inches from the heart.
Three weeks following the alleged rapes, a court-appointed doctor examined the twins and discovered Sharon Sanders was still a virgin. This evidence was never turned over to the defense for discovery and didn’t come into light until many years after Vincent’s conviction.
Vincent was then indicted on two counts of aggravated rape. The penalty for aggravated rape in Louisiana at that time was death.
Vincent was set to begin his trial in July 1977, he was still in a lot of pain from the gunshot wound. A week earlier, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled the penalty of death for aggravated rape was unconstitutional.
Note: all prisoners on death row for aggravated rape had their sentences commuted to twenty years.
For the sake of convenience, Eddie Knoll changed the charges against Simmons to “attempted aggravated rape.”This way he ensured the penalty for ‘the crime’ would be greater.
Is Vincent re-indicted on these new charges? No. He is instead tried, convicted, and sentenced to 100 years, 50 for each twin. Not the 20 he would have gotten if Knoll didn’t change the charges.
Vincent has been filing pro se motions for decades in order to get a new hearing. He has filed for post conviction relief and habeas corpus. He has filed numerous Brady Claim motions and been repeatedly denied, mostly because he has often filled out legal documents imperfectly.
To get an idea of how pro se filings are regarded in Louisiana, read this 2008 article about the State Court of Appeals in Gretna, Louisiana, where all pro se filings were automatically rejected, without ever being looked at: http://blog.nola.com/jamesgill/2008/10/in_a_suicid...
It’s also worth mentioning that Eddie Knoll’s wife, Jeanette Theriot Knoll, who helped prosecute Simmons, sat on the Louisiana Supreme Court.
The Knolls were known contributors to the recent campaign of 12th Circuit Court Judge Mark Jeansonne, who was a trial judge in several of Vincent’s 2007 motions, motions which he of course denied.
Vincent Simmons Support Team
We are an international group of supporters who are helping Vincent with his legal battle. Most of us saw “The Farm” with its shocking parole board “hearing.” You can watch that here:
The team is helping Vincent with his fight for justice. Vincent is seeking a hearing based on newly discovered evidence as guaranteed in Brady v. Maryland, and seeking the help of the public in the form of an outcry.
He has been fighting his conviction since he got locked away in 1977. We have a very motivated and enthusiastic lawyer on the team who is helping Vincent. We need specialists and experts to expose all the wrongdoings in this case which took place in Marksville, a place in the deep south and full of racism back in 1977. Vincent said:
“If I could spend one day in freedom knowing I would die the very next day, I would go for it”.
help Vincent with spreading the word and by donating to his defense fund. We appreciate your help very much. Thank you on behalf of Vincent.
To learn more, please visit www.freevincent.com Most of the legal documents pertaining to Vincent’s case are on this site.
Please help spread the word and help Vincent by donating.