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Oklahoma Man Exonerated After 48 Years in Wrongful Conviction

This marks the longest-known wrongful sentence in the United States.

Glynn Simmons, a 70-year-old man who spent 48 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit, has been officially exonerated by an Oklahoma judge. This marks the longest-known wrongful sentence in the United States.

Simmons was released in July after a district court determined that crucial evidence in his case had not been disclosed to his defense lawyers. On Monday, the county district attorney stated that there was insufficient evidence to warrant a new trial. The exoneration order was issued on Tuesday by Judge Amy Palumbo, who declared Mr. Simmons innocent.

In her ruling, Judge Palumbo stated, “This court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the offence for which Mr. Simmons was convicted, sentenced, and imprisoned… was not committed by Mr. Simmons.”

Simmons, who served 48 years, one month, and 18 days in prison, was convicted in 1975 for the 1974 murder of Carolyn Sue Rogers during a liquor store robbery in an Oklahoma City suburb. Initially sentenced to death along with co-defendant Don Roberts, their punishments were later reduced to life imprisonment due to US Supreme Court rulings on the death penalty.

Throughout his incarceration, Simmons maintained his innocence, asserting that he was in his home state of Louisiana at the time of the murder. Smiling as the court declared his innocence on Tuesday, Simmons, dressed in a grey hooded sweater and fedora, expressed his relief, telling reporters that he had been waiting for this moment for a “long, long time.”

“What’s been done can’t be undone, but there can be accountability,” he said.

The district court vacated Simmons’ sentence in July, citing the failure of prosecutors to disclose all evidence to the defense, including the fact that a witness had identified other suspects. Simmons and Roberts were convicted, in part, based on testimony from a teenager who had been shot in the back of the head. This witness later identified several other men during police line-ups and contradicted some of her own testimony, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

Roberts was released on parole in 2008. Wrongfully convicted individuals who serve time in Oklahoma are eligible for up to $175,000 (£138,000) in compensation.

Simmons, currently battling liver cancer, has received support through a GoFundMe campaign, which has raised thousands of dollars to help cover his living costs and chemotherapy expenses.

Kiki Garba

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