Oklahoma man released from prison after serving 50 years, narrowly escaping death penalty, for wrongful conviction

"Don't let nobody tell you that it (exoneration) can't happen, because it really can," said Simmons.

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
An Oklahoma man who spent nearly 50 years in prison has been exonerated for his crime, making Glynn Simmons, 71, the longest-serving inmate to ultimately be declared innocent of a crime for which he was previously found guilty.

Simmons, who had narrowly escaped the death penalty, served more than 48 years behind bars after receiving a life sentence for a crime he reportedly did not commit. He was initially sentenced to death after being found guilty of murder in 1975, according to the Associated Press.

Oklahoma County District Judge Amy Palumbo ruled on Tuesday that "This court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the offense for which Mr. Simmons was convicted, sentenced and imprisoned... was not committed by Mr. Simmons."

Simmons and his co-defendant, Don Roberts, were both sentenced to death but had their sentences reduced to life in prison in 1977. Roberts was released on parole in 2008 and Simmons was set free in July of this year. The two had been accused of murder in relation to the death of Carolyn Sue Rogers inside an Edmond liquor store in 1974.

Simmons has maintained his innocence and said during a press briefing that he feels vindicated, explaining that his time behind bars served as a "lesson in resilience and tenacity."

"Don't let nobody tell you that it (exoneration) can't happen, because it really can," said Simmons, according to AP.

In July, Judge Amy Palumbo ordered Simmons a new trial following a motion by District Attorney Vicki Behenna alleging that prosecutors neglected to produce requested evidence, which included a crucial police report indicating that an eyewitness potentially recognized other suspects, the outlet reports.

Behenna stated in September that, despite her opposition to declaring Simmons innocent, there is no longer any physical evidence in the case against him and she will not retry him.

Defense attorney Joe Norwood said Wednesday that Simmons has been diagnosed with cancer which was found after his release from prison. While Simmons is subject to receive compensation for his wrongful conviction, he is currently living off of donations from a GoFundMe account that was set up on his behalf.

The exoneration opens the door for a federal lawsuit and Simmons will be awarded up to $175,000 in compensation from the state for his wrongful conviction, according to the outlet.
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