Man free after 44 years in prison; DA dismisses charges

"God did this for me today," said Vincent Simmons, a Black Louisiana man convicted of attempted rape in 1977.

A Black Louisiana man who has maintained his innocence for nearly 45 years after being accused and convicted of trying to rape a pair of 14-year-old white twin girls in 1977, was granted his freedom on Monday following a judge’s ruling.

Vincent Simmons was released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, after Avoyelles Parish Judge William Bennett determined that the extremely brief trial that led to Simmons’s conviction more than four decades ago was unfair, according to KALB and CNN.

Vincent Simmons
Judge William Bennett determined that the extremely brief trial that led to the conviction of Vincent Simmons (above) more than four decades ago was unfair. (Credit: YouTube screenshot/ CBS Mornings)

A Louisiana judge had sentenced Simmons to the maximum term of 50 years in prison for each of the two attempted rape charges he was convicted of — one for each twin, CNN reported.

The judge ordered Simmons to serve his sentences consecutively, one after the other, instead of concurrently.

Simmons’s attorney told CNN his client couldn’t have committed the crime because he was involved in a bar fight around 9 p.m. on May 9, 1977, when the alleged rape attempt occurred.

Judge Bennett granted Simmons a new trial during a hearing on Monday, but local district attorney Charlie Riddle chose to dismiss the charges against Simmons after getting approval from Sharon and Karen Sanders, the twin sisters who accused Simmons of attempted rape decades ago.

Simmons told KALB that “God kept hope alive” for him while he was stuck behind bars for a crime he says he didn’t commit.

“God did this for me today,” Simmons added.

It took an all-white jury less than a day to convict Simmons during his original trial, which took place just 60 days after he was accused of attempted rape more than 44 years ago, according to KALB and CNN.

Bennett decided to grant Simmons a new trial after reviewing additional evidence that surfaced while Simmons was in prison.

That evidence included a photograph of Simmons wearing handcuffs during a police lineup, and the alleged victims’ medical records, which reportedly didn’t show any signs of assault, per KALB. The Sanders twins never said Simmons’s name to police but named him at trial.

Simmons’s friends and family cheered in the courtroom after the judge issued his ruling and the DA opted not to pursue a new trial.

Riddle told reporters he still believed there was sufficient evidence to secure another conviction against Simmons, but questioned “what purpose” it would serve to put Simmons’s accusers through another trial.

“Just in case anyone has any doubt, no this is not a declaration of innocence at all,” Riddle said, according to KALB.

Sharon and Karen Sanders said they gave prosecutors permission not to pursue a second trial against Simmons because the two of them have “had enough.”

“We’ve got 44 years, we’re happy with that,” one of the identical twins told KALB outside the courthouse on Monday. “We’re tired. We want it behind us.”

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