Vincent Simmons to return to court Tuesday

‘Procedural motions’ to be heard in appeal of 1977 convictions

Vincent Simmons will be back in a Marksville courtroom today in his 41-year quest to overturn a 1977 conviction for two counts of attempted aggravated rape of two teenage twin sisters.

Simmons, now 66, was ordered to serve two consecutive 50-year sentences when he was convicted in July 1977.

He has maintained his innocence since his arrest. His case has been the subject of documentaries, books and an online effort seeking his release.

Simmons’ attorney Bobby Hjortsberg of New Orleans said Tuesday’s hearing is “only procedural, concerning objections in the case.”

District Judge Kerry Spruill will hear the motions.

Hjortsberg has also filed a motion seeking an evidentiary hearing for the court to consider evidence that was not heard in Simmons’ original trial.

One of those pieces of evidence is a statement by a woman who recalls seeing Simmons at a bar the night the attack on the 14-year-old twins occurred. Prosecutors dispute the reliability of the witness.

Simmons was identified by the girls as their assailant. They have maintained their version of events for the past 41 years. Simmons was originally charged with two counts of aggravated rape.
Then District Attorney Eddie Knoll reduced the charges to attempted aggravated rape just prior to trial.

Simmons was shot in the chest shortly after being identified in the lineup. Deputies said he grabbed a deputy’s firearm and was shot. Simmons has disputed that version.

In a day when criminal cases - especially high-profile, violent crimes - take months or years to come to trial, Simmons’ case was concluded quickly.

The crime occurred in May 1977 and Simmons’ two-day trial was in July 1977 -- despite the fact Simmons was still recuperating from the near-fatal shooting.

Although the time from crime-to-sentencing took only two months, the appeals process has been ongoing ever since.

Prosecutors have noted that state and federal courts have found no merit in Simmons’ appeals to date and do not expect the most recent round of motions to be any different.

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