Post conviction application filed on behalf of Vincent Simmons
A post conviction application has been filed in the 12th Judicial District Court in Avoyelles Parish on behalf of Vincent Simmons, the black Mansura man convicted in July 1977 of the attempted aggravated rape of twin white girls.
Simmons, now 65, is serving a 100 year sentence in Angola. He has maintained his innocence from the beginning.
Simmons was featured in the HBO Documentary, "The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison." "The Vincent Simmons Project," a fundraising website where the community can contribute to his defense fund, states that Simmons "was convicted purely on the basis of the flawed and contradictory testimony of the two alleged victims and their cousin, Keith Laborde. There was no physical evidence of any kind against Vincent, in fact no physical evidence that the rapes ever actually occurred."
In 2014, supporters of Simmons held a rally in Marksville to try to get him a new trial.
The accusations about Simmons date back to May 1977 where the twin girls, then 14, along with their older cousin, Laborde, told family and police that the girls had been raped by a black man two weeks prior after the three gave him a ride at a Marksville convenience store. The three claimed that the man pulled a knife on them and put them in the trunk of the car and later took each twin out separately to rape them. The three told authorities that they were later dropped off back in town.
Vincent was picked up by police the next day while he was outside walking in Marksville. According to court records, the girls picked Vincent out of a line up in which he was, reportedly, the only one handcuffed and after openly stating that all black men look alike.
No physical evidence that the rapes occurred was presented during the trial. In fact, according to court documents, no forensic tests were performed.
Simmons' court appointed attorney presented several alibi witnesses who said that he was at a local bar the night of the crimes.
He was found guilty by a jury of 11 white men and one black woman.
On July 21, 2017, a post conviction attorney for Simmons, Robert Hjortsberg, filed a post conviction application. In a press release, the attorney claims that "newly discovered and explosive evidence" supports Vincent's claim of innocence.
The attorney goes on to state that the evidence is a statement from Pamela Jones, a patron at the J&J Snack Bar, where Simmons claimed he was that night. Jones testifies that "she was present at the bar long before 9 p.m. and saw Vincent at the bar the entire night in question."
The attorney continues that the evidence "undermines the integrity" of the Avoyelles Parish District Attorney's Office for "withholding exculpatory evidence for over forty years."
Coming up tonight on News Channel 5 at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. we'll talk with Hjortsberg.