Glynn Simmons is longest imprisoned inmate to be exonerated in U.S. history after 48 years in prison

Stephen Nartey December 21, 2023
Glynn Simmons/Photo credit: University of Michigan Law School

After spending nearly 50 years in prison, 71-year-old Glynn Simmons, a former death row inmate from Oklahoma, has officially been exonerated by a judge.

The Oklahoma man was convicted of a crime he did not commit. He was released in July when key evidence was acknowledged to have been withheld from his defense by prosecutors. Simmons was officially declared innocent on Wednesday.

“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,” Oklahoma County District Judge Amy Palumbo wrote in his ruling.

Simmons spent a total of 48 years, one month, and 18 days in prison after being convicted in 1974 of the murder of Carolyn Sue Rogers, according to the New York Post.

He is the longest-imprisoned inmate to be cleared in U.S. history, as reported by the National Registry of Exonerations.

Following the judge’s ruling, Simmons celebrated outside the courthouse by raising his arms in victory. In speaking to reporters, he expressed a sense of vindication, having endured decades behind bars to ultimately prove his innocence.

“It’s a lesson in resilience and tenacity,” Simmons said. “Don’t let nobody tell you that it (exoneration) can’t happen, because it really can.”

During his trial and incarceration, Simmons consistently asserted he was in Louisiana at the time of Carolyn Sue Rogers’ murder in Edmond. In 1975, Simmons and co-defendant Don Roberts were convicted and sentenced to death. Subsequently, their death sentences were commuted to life in prison in 1977 in light of Supreme Court rulings on capital punishment.

Roberts was released on parole in 2008, while Simmons remained incarcerated. In July, a new trial was ordered for Simmons after evidence, including a police report with potential eyewitness identifications of other suspects, was revealed to have been withheld.

District Attorney Vicki Behenna announced in September that Simmons, lacking physical evidence linking him to the crime scene, would not face retrial. Currently free, Simmons is relying on donations from a GoFundMe campaign, according to defense attorney Joe Norwood.

Attorney Norwood stated that Simmons is eligible for up to $175,000 in compensation for wrongful conviction and may consider filing a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma City and the authorities involved in his arrest and conviction.

However, the attorney noted that the potential compensation is likely years away.

“Getting him compensation, and getting compensation is not for sure, is in the future and he has to sustain himself now,” Norwood said.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: December 21, 2023


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