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New attorney wants Vincent Simmons sentence, conviction vacated

Simmons has maintained innocence in rape case since 1977
Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 11:13 PM CDT
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MARKSVILLE, La. (KALB) - Vincent Simmons, the Mansura man convicted on two counts of attempted aggravated rape of twin sisters in 1977, is trying to vacate his conviction and 100-year sentence.

RELATED: Post conviction application filed on behalf of Vincent Simmons

Justin Bonus is Simmons' new lead attorney. On Tuesday, he made some forceful claims about the Simmons case during a news conference in front of the Avoyelles Parish Court House.

“Rape myth is when white men protect white women and they use the justice system to lynch Black men,” Bonus said. “Vincent Simmons has been sitting for 43 years in prison as an innocent man.”

Bonus is from New York but will be practicing alongside longtime Louisiana lawyer Edward Larvadain Jr.

The Simmons' legal team is hoping an Avoyelles Parish judge will consider their new motion based on what they say is new evidence that could one day have Simmons walk free.

Both attorneys were surrounded by the Simmons family and supporters as the motion was filed.

“We are standing here in solidarity to help Vincent in his fight. We ask people to come forward and help us tell the truth. We know that Vincent is not guilty,” Simmons' sister Hattie James said. “We knew that when we were kids.”

There are seven key arguments Simmons' legal team is making in what is a more than 300-page document for post-conviction relief. The filing states, “Petitioner has been a duplicitous pro se filer and has been represented by The Honorable Laurie White in a 2004 motion and Robert Hjortsberg in a motion that was filed in 2014. Although this present post-conviction application is not his first filing and it is filed outside the three-year time period established by law, for filing of post-conviction, this application is timely nonetheless as it falls within one of the exceptions to the time limit. It meets a timely filed exception, brought under several sections of La.C.Cr.P. Article 930.4 and 930.8 in that there are several due process violations and newly discovered evidence that supports this application.”

This means that Simmons has tried previously to appeal his conviction and sentence and that legally he is still within his rights to appeal, even though he’s failed before, and he is filing outside the three-year time period established by law.

The following information comes from the “APPLICATION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF AND MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT FROM THE CRIMINAL CONVICTION ENTITLED STATE OF LOUISIANA V. VINCENT SIMMONS, IN THE TWELFTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT IN AND FOR THE PARISH OF AVOYELLES, THE HONORABLE EARLE EDWARDS, JUDGE, PRESIDING” document:

  1. POINT I: THIS PETITION SHOULD BE HEARD
  2. POINT II: VINCENT SIMMONS IS ACTUALLY INNOCENT
  3. POINT III: NEWLY DISCOVERED EVIDENCE WOULD HAVE PROBABLY CHANGED THE VERDICT HAD THE JURY HEARD WHAT IS NOW BEFORE THE COURT
  4. POINT IV: “THREE NAMES REDACTED” TESTIFIED FALSELY. AS SUCH, A FRAUD WAS PRESENTED TO THE COURT.
  5. POINT V: THE STATE COMMITTED BOTH BRADY AND JENCKS ACT VIOLATIONS
  6. POINT VI: TRIAL COUNSEL RENDERED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL WHEN HE FAILED TO INVESTIGATE OR APPROPRIATELY CROSS EXAMINE ALL OF THE WITNESSES DURING THE TRIAL
  7. POINT VII: AT A MINIMUM, A HEARING MUST BE HELD TO DETERMINE THE VERACITY OF SIMMONS' CLAIMS

A few of those points include arguments that Simmons is innocent, that there is newly-discovered evidence and that the state committed both Brady and Jencks violations. A Brady violation is when the defense accuses the prosecution of withholding information pertinent to the case that could be favorable to the defendant. A Jencks violation is when the defense accuses the state of withholding any witness statements that were supposed to be handed for cross-examination.

They are also claiming that Simmons had ineffective counsel during his trial.

According to Avoyelles Parish District Attorney, Charles Riddle III, this is the 20th filing for post-conviction relief on behalf of Simmons. Riddle said they’ve all been rejected.

“The victims have stated repeatedly that it happened, and now he’s (Simmons) saying that it didn’t happen, but of course he’s (Simmons) said that for several years,” Riddle said. “We’ll objectively look at it, and then we’ll argue the case accordingly.”

Riddle said with the claims of new evidence, the filing will be reviewed, and a decision made on whether it will be heard or rejected. Riddle said the prosecution will objectively examine the filing and speak with witnesses and victims.

As far as what Bonus is alleging in the 300 plus page filing, Riddle said, “In some cases, I think he’s (Bonus) blaming the victims, which is not a non-common tactic. So, we’ll see. I’m going to speak to the victims about each of these allegations.”

Riddle expects the matter to be heard sometime in February.

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