OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – Tuesday Oklahoma County District Judge Amy Palumbo held an evidentiary hearing in consideration of vacating the first degree murder conviction of Glynn Simmons.
Simmons, 69, and co-defendant Don Roberts, 68, were convicted in the Edmond Liquor Store murder of 1975.
Glynn Simmons defense team has asked the judge to toss out Simmons’ conviction outright.
The Oklahoma County District Attorney‘s office has asked to vacate the sentence and set a date for a new trial.
Last Friday, during a surprise announcement Oklahoma County D.A. Vicki Behenna publicly admitted an error was made during the 1975 murder trial.
The State failed to turn over significant exculpatory evidence to the defense, as required by law.
The evidence in question was a police report that appears to show multiple line-ups and an eyewitness who may have identified suspects other than Simmons and Roberts.
Tuesday, Judge Palumbo told the court, “Mr. Simmos was charged with this crime before I was even born. It sure would have been nice for The State of Oklahoma to have confessed to this error before now.”
Testimony went on for about four hours Tuesday.
Assistant District Attorney Brant Elmore objected to witness testimony on the basis that it was irrelevant to the matter at hand, the motion to vacate.
Judge Amy Palumbo ultimately decided she wanted to hear from witnesses in order to make an informed decision about Simmons’ conviction.
Seven alibi witnesses testified Simmons was in Harvey, Louisiana on the night of the Edmond Liquor Store Murder, December 30, 1975.
Simmons’ childhood friend, Myron Francis, testified Simmons spent the Christmas and New Year holiday in Louisiana in 1974, and did not travel to Oklahoma until mid January of 1975.
Francis told the court he purchased Simmons’ airline ticket and drove him to the airport.
Several dozen supporters listened in court to testimony about the murder and Simmons’ alibi.
Defense attorney, Joe Norwood, called eyewitness memory expert, Dr. Curt Carlson, to the stand to testify about the science of recognition memory.
The prosecutor who tried the case in 1975, Robert Mildfelt took the stand to address inconsistencies in the police reports.
Mildfelt was a prosecutor under district attorneys Curtis Harris, Andy Coates and Bob Macy.
This was his first death penalty case.
Mildfelt reminded the court that there was no physical evidence in the Edmond Liquor Store murder case. The case rested solely on the eyewitness testimony of the surviving victim who had been shot in the back of the head, Belinda Brown.
Mildfelt also addressed the difficulties of victim identification.
“The more science we have the better off we are,” said Mildfelt. “But we didn’t have any science in this case.”
Simmons’ co-defendant, Don Roberts, took the stand to tell the court he believes racism and bigotry played a role.
The all-white jury convicted Roberts and Simmons in a trial that lasted only two days.
Roberts called himself and Simmons “fresh meat” for a district attorney with a reputation for pinning crimes on black men.
A.D.A. Elmore pointed out that the state’s only witness, Belinda Brown, adamently maintains today that she positively identified the correct suspects in the case.
Glynn Simmons testified on his own behalf. He told the court he flew from Harvey, Louisiana to Oklahoma City on a commercial airplane on January 5, 1975.
He said he didn’t meet his so-called accomplice, Don Roberts, until late January, 1975.
Simmons and Roberts both said unequovocally they are not guilty of the murder of Carolyn Sue Rogers.
Rogers’ family was also in court.
Her sister, Janice Smith, came to support Simmons because she believes he’s innocent.
“The man has more than paid for something he didn’t do,” Smith said. “I think he should be otu of prison while he still has a little bit of life left.”
After testimony and a closing statement from each attorney, Judge Amy Palumbo decided to take the matter into advisement.
She rendered no judgment Tuesday and advised that she would make a timely decision in the case upon more detailed review of the evidence and testimony.