EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) – Officials with the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office made a major announcement regarding a murder case from the 1970s.
It’s a case KFOR has been following for decades.
In a surprise announcement, The Oklahoma County DA is asking for a new trial for one of the accused.
The Edmond Liquor Store Murder
On December 30, 1974, two suspects robbed the Edmond Liquor Store. In the commission of the robbery, two women were shot.
The store’s clerk, Carolyn Sue Rogers, died as a result of her injuries.
A customer in the store, Belinda Brown, was wounded but survived.
“It was a big deal because Edmond had only recently begun to have any homicides,” former Edmond Police Detective Gary Carson told KFOR in 2003. “I had helped process the crime scene myself, and there was little if any usable evidence came from the crime scene.”
Police interviewed Brown three days after the crime when she was in the hospital, recovering from a gunshot wound to the head.
“I think she was just in a state of shock and just glad to be alive,” Jim Garr, a composite sketch artist said in 2003, talking about his interview with Brown in 1975. “It was difficult to get details from her, but I think we got enough that we were finally able to get enough to come up with a composite sketch.
Hit play and watch two special in-depth reports from 2003 and 2014 from investigative journalist Ali Meyer.
Brown went on to pick a handful of different suspects from nine police line-ups.
Ultimately, then-Oklahoma County District Attorney Curtis Harris charged Don Roberts, of Oklahoma City, and Glynn Simmons, of Louisiana, with the murder of Carolyn Sue Rogers.
Simmons and Roberts were tried at the same time in a jury trial that took just two-and-a-half days.
Roberts and Simmons were both represented by public defenders. Simmons’ attorney, Henry Floyd, was later disbarred after officials cited more than 50 courtroom complaints against him.
There was no physical evidence introduced at the preliminary hearing or trial.
In fact, the only evidence was the eyewitness account of Belinda Brown. Another witness in the case refused to point the finger at Simmons and Roberts in court.
“[The jury] relied on eyewitness testimony. But now we’ve seen that’s not always the best [evidence,]” said then-Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Dan Murdock, who tried the case against Simmons and Roberts.
The jury ultimately sentenced Don Roberts and Glynn Simmons to death by electrocution.
In 1978, their death sentences were modified to life in prison following a change to state law.
Don Roberts was 21-years-old when he went on trial for murder, charged as a co-defendant with a stranger. He says he had never met Simmons until weeks after the murder.
He served 33 years behind bars before he was granted parole at the age of 55.
“You took everything I had. The only thing you didn’t take from me is my life. You put me on death row. You put me in a pit, and I had to survive that pit,” Roberts said.
After being released from prison, he moved to Edmond.
“As long as I’ve got another breath, I’m gonna keep moving on. I’m not going to let this bother me. I can’t,” said Roberts.
Although he received parole, his life is limited. He is still a convicted murderer on paper.
Glynn Simmons was not as fortunate.
He is still in prison. Simmons has served 48 years behind bars for a crime he says he didn’t, and couldn’t, commit.
Prosecutors painted Simmons as the man who pulled the trigger.
“I was born left-handed. And at 8-years-old, I got my right hand trigger finger cut off,” said Simmons, showing KFOR his hand.
His parole has been denied multiple times, even though he has several high-profile people on his side.
In fact, Simmons has the support of the victim’s family and the prosecutor who put him on death row.
“I don’t think he did it. I really don’t,” said Janice Smith, Carolyn Sue Rogers’ sister.
Former Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Bob Mildfelt even wrote a letter of support to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
“Your case has troubled me these many years because of the many questions unanswered by the evidence we had,” the letter read, in part.
New Eyes on the Case
More than 45 years after the trial, a new Oklahoma County district attorney is taking another look at the case.
On Friday, Oklahoma County District Attorney Vicki Behenna announced that a motion had been filed in the case.
She announced that she is asking a judge to vacate Simmons’ sentence and call for a new trial in the case.
Behenna said that a Western District judge found that a ‘significant’ police report was not turned over to Simmons’ defense team at trial.
Although the judge didn’t think the police report would have changed the jury’s mind, Behenna said since evidence was withheld in the case, Simmons deserves a new trial.
“There’s two police reports that the federal court found that weren’t turned over. There’s a police report that was entered on Feb. 10, 1975 and it talked about the events that happened on Feb. 7, 1975 and Feb. 8, 1975. At that time, the Edmond Police Department conducted a line up with the only witness that actually identified Mr. Simmons at trial. And there’s some questions about what happened during the course of that line up. And the way that the police report is written, it could be questioned whether the witness identified a certain subject or subjects, and so because of that, it becomes, in our mind, a question of whether Mr. Simmons did receive a fair trial,” said Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Brant Elmore.
When asked if the report detailed that the witness pinpointed several different subjects during the line up, Elmore said, “That could be an interpretation of it. There could be another interpretation of it.”
Simmons gave an alibi to authorities, saying he was in Louisiana at the time of the murder. He also reportedly provided several witnesses to that alibi.
“In his mind, he was in Harvey, Louisiana, 12 to 14 hours away from the crime scene, from about 4 p.m. on the day of the murder until the following day,” Elmore said. “We have a witness who very adamantly identified them at preliminary hearing and trial, and a jury is the one who makes that decision. That’s our system. And that’s the way our system works.”
Since that report wasn’t made available to Simmons’ attorneys at the time, they are calling for a new trial.
Elmore says the new trial request only applies for Simmons.
Now, it will be up to a district judge whether to vacate the sentence, grant a new trial, or completely deny the request.
“We don’t think that there is any new evidence that’s been presented to us that would show that Mr. Simmons is factually innocent of this murder,” Behenna said.
The case is set to go before a district judge on Tuesday.