Man acquitted of murder after more than 48 years in prison

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An Oklahoma man who was convicted of murder in a 1975 liquor store robbery was exonerated in court Tuesday after spending more than 48 years in prison, authorities said.

It was thought to be the longest time served by a wrongfully convicted inmate in the United States, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, which tracks the length of sentences for wrongful convictions.

The man, Glynn Simmons, 70, was found not guilty in a ruling by Oklahoma County District Court Judge Amy Palumbo. Mr. Simmons was released on bail in July after Judge Palumbo agreed during a status hearing to vacate the conviction and sentence at the request of Vicki Zemp Behenna, the Oklahoma County district attorney who had been reviewing Their case.

Behenna, whose office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday, discovered that important evidence in Simmons' case had not been turned over to his defense attorneys.

An amended order, signed by Judge Palumbo on Tuesday, said the court determined “by clear and convincing evidence” that the crime for which Mr. Simmons was jailed “was not committed by Mr. Simmons.”

According to the exoneration registry, Simmons spent more time behind bars (48 years, one month and 18 days) than anyone else cleared of charges.

“It's a lesson in resilience and tenacity,” Simmons said of his case during a news conference after the ruling. “Don't let anyone tell you it can't happen, because it really can.”

Simmons, who was not available for comment Wednesday, was 22 when he was convicted of first-degree murder in the liquor store robbery that took place in Edmond, Oklahoma, in December 1974, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. He and Don Roberts were convicted of killing Carolyn Sue Rogers, an employee who was shot in the head by two robbers, according to the record.

Simmons and Roberts were placed in police lineups after police investigated two other men, Leonard Patterson and Delbert Patterson, brothers who had been involved in a different murder, according to the record. Police lined up people who had been at a party the Patterson brothers attended around that time in Oklahoma City, including Mr. Simmons and Mr. Roberts.

Prosecutors relied on a woman who had been shot in the head during the liquor store robbery, and she identified Mr. Simmons and Mr. Roberts in a lineup. The witness later contradicted some of her own testimony, the national registry said.

Initially, Messrs. Simmons and Roberts were sentenced to the death penalty, according to the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office. But their sentences were modified after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decided to review their cases, based on a 1972 Supreme Court ruling that found the death penalty unconstitutional because it was applied unequally. Mr. Roberts was released on parole in 2008, according to the district attorney's office.

Joe Norwood, a lawyer for Mr. Simmons, said Tuesday's ruling cleared the way for Mr. Simmons to receive up to $175,000 in compensation and gave him the opportunity to file a federal lawsuit.

Norwood said Simmons, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, had been living largely off donations made through an online crowdfunding platform.

“He was deprived of work experience and being able to have a career in which he could financially secure himself and his family,” Norwood said. “All that was taken away from him.”



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