A Black man was freed this week after serving 44 years at the Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana for a crime he maintains he did not commit.
On Monday (February 14), Avoyelles Parish Judge William Bennett granted Vincent Simmons a new trial, ruling that his 1977 trial was not fair, KALB reported. Simmons was convicted of attempted aggravated rape of 14-year-old twin sisters, Sharon and Karen Sanders four decades ago.
After Bennett's ruling, District Attorney Charlie Riddle dismissed the charges against Simmons with the consent of the women, who are now 59 years old. Riddle stated that he believed there was enough evidence to convict Simmons again, but "for what purpose" would he make the Sanders' go through another trial.
Riddle added that the decision does not mean that Simmons is innocent, noting "Just in case anyone has any doubt, no, this is not a declaration of innocence at all."
But Bennett granted the motion for a new trial based on evidence that surfaced years after Simmons was in prison, including a picture that showed him in handcuffs during a police lineup, medical records of the Sanders' sisters that did not indicate signs of assault, and additional witness testimony.
According to CBS, when the sisters reported the assault to police, they said they didn't know who the man was, and records indicate they said their rapist was Black and that "all Black people look alike" and used the N-word. That testimony was never shared with the defense, attorneys said.
The Sanders still maintain they were assaulted and believe Simmons is guilty, but said they "have had enough of the case" and "we want it behind us."
Simmons attributed his faith to get through those years in prison. "God, God kept the faith for me."
"He's happy and thankful and praying, but he doesn't know what's going to happen," Simmons' attorney told CBS' David Begnaud. "He's not angry. He forgives them because he knows vengeance isn't his."
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