Vincent Simmons on being freed after spending 44 years in prison
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Vincent Simmons said he used to have visions of walking out of Angola State Penitentiary, where he has been for the last several decades.
Those visions came true after Louisiana Judge Bill Bennett ruled Monday that Simmons did not get a fair trial in 1977 when he was convicted of attempted aggravated rape of twin 14-year-old sisters.
Bennett recently examined information that was available in 1977, but not presented at his trial — information Simmons and his attorneys believed might have prevented his conviction.
In his ruling, Bennett said that he was expressing “no opinion” on Simmons’ guilt or innocence.
The judge ordered a new trial — but Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles Riddle then told the court that he will not retry Simmons and the charges were dropped.
Simmons described to CBS News’ lead national correspondent David Begnaud what his state of mind was when he heard that he would be a free man.
“It dawned on me, this is it. You know. Man, we’ve been waiting all these years for this,” Simmons said.
His accusers, twin sisters Sharon and Karen Sanders, now 59 years old, were also at the courthouse Monday, the first time since the 1977 trial that they went to a court hearing for Simmons.
The sisters said they would not ask the district attorney for a new trial but maintained that they are the victims and that Simmons is guilty.
“He went in guilty. He is guilty now and guess what, he will die guilty. So, I am happy. I got 44 years,” Karen said.
Simmons has fought to clear his name for decades and tried at least 16 times over the years to get a new trial, maintaining that he is innocent and did not receive a fair trial.
Simmons told CBS News that he holds no negative feelings when it comes to the Sanders sisters.
“No, I am not mad at them. I mean that when I told them I forgive them that’s what I mean … forgiveness,” Simmons said.
The judge’s ruling means Simmons walks out as a free man, but some people may still believe he is guilty. Simmons said this doesn’t bother him because he is innocent.
“People going to be people and some of them are going to say he’s guilty despite the fact that they have no evidence,” he said.
Simmons told CBS News he plans to move away from Louisiana, a state he says that was not fair to him. He also said he plans to go to work to help other inmates find their freedom.