Vincent Simmons, a black Louisiana man accused of raping white 14-year-old twins in 1977, was freed Monday after 44 years in prison
A judge in New Orleans ruled that he didn’t receive a fair trial in 1977 and rather than order a retrial, a district attorney dropped the charges against Simmons
Simmons has fought to clear his name at least 16 times by trying to present evidence that wasn’t seen at his initial trial
Among the evidence is witness testimony that the 25-year-old was at a bar at the time of the incident and a medical report weeks after the alleged rape, which found that one of his accusers was a virgin
The police report on the case states that that the doctor found no signs of a sexual assault on either of the girls
Also in their evidence was the girls’ testimony to police about their alleged attacker, in which they said they didn’t know what he looked like and couldn’t point him out in a line-up
The alleged rape victims told investigators that the man who raped them was black and ‘all blacks and n*****rs look alike
Simmons also had an alibi and was allegedly at a bar at the time of the alleged attack, his attorneys and supporters told CNN last year
The twins, two weeks after alleged incident, told cops they were abducted by a black man who sexually assaulted them for three hours after stealing a car belonging to their cousin
The vehicle owner Keith Laborde, 18, they said was locked in the trunk, during heir ordeal
Simmons’ attorney Justin Bonus presented to the judge claims made in a sworn statement by Laborde’s cousin Dana Brouilette in 2020 that, ‘Karen admitted to me [Brouilette], that Keith raped her’
Laborde admitted that Simmons did not rape the sisters or put him in the trunk of the car, Brouilette said
‘He [Laborde] told me that he had had consensual sex with one of the girls and locked the other in the trunk while he was on Little California Road,’ Dana Brouilette said in her statement’
Sharon and Karen Sanders, who are now 59, maintain that Simmons is guilty, but said they wouldn’t seek another trial
‘He went in guilty. He is guilty now and guess what, he will die guilty. So, I am happy. I got 44 years,’ Karen Sanders said
A black Louisiana man has been freed from prison after 44 years when a judge ruled on Monday that he did not have a fair trial in 1977, when he was accused of attempted aggravated rape by two white twins who were 14 years old at the time.
Vincent Simmons, who turns 70 on Thursday, has fought to clear his name at least 16 times by trying to present evidence that wasn’t seen at his initial trial, when he was convicted by a jury of 11 white men and one black woman.
It’s not clear how Simmons was even a suspect in the case, and there was no physical evidence linking him to the rape of the twins, Sharon and Karen Sanders, now 59.
The twins alleged to police that a black man raped them and pointed Simmons out in a police line-up.
Among the new evidence presented to the court that freed Simmons was a medical report conducted two weeks after the incident, where a doctor found that one of the accusers was a virgin. It’s not clear which sister it referred to.
The report continued to say that the doctor found no signs of a sexual assault on either of the girls.
Also in their evidence was the girls’ testimony to police about their alleged attacker, in which they said they didn’t know what he looked like and couldn’t point him out in a line-up.
Significantly the alleged rape victims told investigators that the man who raped them was black and ‘all blacks and n*****s look alike,’ reported CBS.
The twins, who have not spoken publicly until now, maintain that he is guilty of raping them.
Simmons also had an alibi, as his attorneys and supporters told CNN last year that he was in a fight at a bar on the other side of Avoyelles Parish on May 9, 1977 around 9pm – when the alleged rapes were said to take place.
Simmons and his attorneys have fought for years to have their evidence examined, to no avail. Their luck changed on Monday when Louisiana Judge Bill Bennett said it was sufficient enough to order a new trial, clarifying in his ruling that he had ‘no opinion’ on whether Simmons was guilty or innocent.
Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles Riddle, however, said he didn’t want the victims ‘to undergo the trauma of another trial’ and dropped the charges – allowing Simmons to leave Angola State Penitentiary three days before his 70th birthday.
‘It dawned on me, this is it. You know. Man, we’ve been waiting all these years for this,’ Simmons told CBS News’ lead national correspondent David Begnaud when he learned he was a free man.
Simmons left the maximum security prison on Monday evening, where he was greeted by family and supporters.
He was initially sentenced to 100 years in prison, one for each sister he was accused of raping to run concurrently.
Referring to the dropped charges Riddle said: ‘Just in case anyone has any doubt, no this is not a declaration of innocence at all. We attempted to free him months ago because he has served enough time. Let this case be put to bed and the victims free from suffering again.’
The sisters were at the courthouse on Monday, their first appearance at a court hearing for Simmons since he was convicted in 1977.
They would not ask the district attorney for a new trial, but maintained their accusations 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 told CBS.
On the contrary Simmons told CBS he’s neither angry at the sisters or harboring any ill will : ‘I am not mad at them. I mean that when I told them I forgive them that’s what I mean … forgiveness.’
Neither is he concerned about public opinion, seeing as he hasn’t been exonerated: ‘People going to be people and some of them are going to say ‘he’s guilty,’ despite the fact that they have no evidence,’ Simmons said.
New evidence Simmons’ attorney presented to a judge includes a medical report weeks after the alleged rape, which found that one of his accusers was a virgin.
Simmons, who was 25 at the time of the alleged attack, was convicted of attempted aggravated rape less than two months after he was arrested.
In addition to evidence Simmons and his attorneys have been fighting to have examined, Justin Bonus, his latest attorney, also cited what he called ‘explosive’ claims from a witness.
‘There’s no physical evidence that connects him to that crime. There’s no blood. There’s no semen, there’s no hairs. There’s nothing,’ Bonus told CBS.
‘Sharon talks about bleeding all over the car. Karen talks about a violent rape.
‘Where’s the evidence in the car?
‘Where’s the blood in the car?
‘There’s nothing that supports a crime happened, and there’s definitely not anything that supports a Black man committed the crime,’ Bonus added.
The sisters gave their account of what happened to police two weeks after the alleged incident, saying they were abducted by a black man who sexually assaulted them for three hours after stealing a car belonging to their cousin Keith Laborde, 18, who they say was locked in the trunk.
Bonus has presented to the judge claims made in a sworn statement made by Laborde’s cousin Dana Brouilette in 2020, who said Laborde admitted that Simmons did not rape the sisters or put him in the trunk of the car, CBS reported.
‘Dana Brouilette goes on to say, ‘He told me that he had had consensual sex with one of the girls and locked the other in the trunk while he was on Little California Road,” Bonus said.
‘Karen admitted to me that Keith raped her,’ Brouilette said in 2020.
*Sharon Sanders told CBS in response: ‘Oh my God. She is a sick woman. She is a sick woman to even go there. She had no clue. That’s sick. I’m sorry. But that is so sick.’
‘Say that was the truth and they believe that really happened, why didn’t they go report it?’ Karen Sanders said.
When asked by CBS if she had consensual sex with Laborde, Karen Sanders said: ‘We were kids. … We experimented. So yes, if that’s consensual, that’s whatever word you want to put to it.’
Karen Sanders said the incident happened when she was 9 or 10 years old, before she accused Simmons of raping her.
‘That’s as newly discovered evidence as it gets man, and it’s out of the horse’s mouth. It makes her look like she’s no longer a victim. My client’s a victim. … It’s evidence that Vincent, at trial, his defense attorneys would have ran to that so fast they would have blamed Keith,’ Bonus said. Meanwhile, Simmons told CBS that he plans on leaving Louisiana and starting a new life as an advocate for other inmates hoping to find their freedom.