Willie Simmons has not lost hope inspite of his appeals getting rejected.
It is no doubt a person should be punished for his crimes. However, sometimes justice may not be served to everyone. The story of one such man was brought to the public's eye by a journalist.
According to Essence, an Alabama Army veteran, Willie Simmons stole $9 in 1982 when. As a result, he was charged with 1st-degree robbery and was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole at the age of 25. The man prosecuted under Alabama's habitual offender law due to the three prior convictions was told he would just die in prison. Simmons who is now 62 has spent his last 38 years under bars. He opened up to Reporter and producer for WBRC, Beth Shelburne. The reporter shed light on his life through a series of tweets.
She wrote, "Today I talked to Willie Simmons, who has spent the last 38 years in prison for stealing $9. He was convicted of 1st degree robbery & sentenced to life without parole in 1982, prosecuted under Alabama's habitual offender law because he had 3 prior convictions." Simmons was incarcerated at Holman, one of the most violent prisons in the country, Shelburne reveals. He also told her that he had got rid of his drug addiction 18 years back. "He is studying for his GED and 'tries to stay away from the wild bunch.' He got sober in prison 18 years ago, despite being surrounded by drugs. 'I just talked to God about it,' he said," tweeted the journalist.
THREAD: Today I talked to Willie Simmons, who has spent the last 38 years in prison for stealing $9. He was convicted of 1st degree robbery & sentenced to life without parole in 1982, prosecuted under Alabama's habitual offender law because he had 3 prior convictions. 1/12 pic.twitter.com/s5BNK2Ejyd— Beth Shelburne (@bshelburne) December 22, 2019
Recalling his trial that happened years ago, the elderly man told Shelburne how his fate was decided in mere minutes. "He remembers his trial lasting 25 minutes and his appointed attorney calling no witnesses. Prosecutors did not offer him a plea deal, even though all of his prior offenses were nonviolent." Simmons even added that the prosecutors did not offer him a plea in spite of being a non-violent offender. "'They kept saying we'll do our best to keep you off the streets for good,' he said," wrote the journalist.
Since then, Simmons fate has remained the same. He stayed among his violent inmates for years with a timely visit from his sister. However, those visits stopped after her death in 2005. The prisoner told the reporter that he had appealed several times. However, he was left with rejections after rejections. "Over the years, he's filed appeal after appeal, with no lawyer. All were denied."
"'In a place like this, it can feel like you're standing all alone,' he told me. 'I ain't got nobody on the outside to call and talk to. Sometimes I feel like I'm lost in outer space,'" tweeted Simmons. However, the elderly man still hopes for a better tomorrow. He still hopes to fight the injustice. "Yes, I've been hoping and praying on it. I ain't giving up," said the man.
Despite the hope he carries in his heart, Simmons' dream of getting out may not become a reality. In 2014, the last avenue of the appeal of people who were sentenced under the habitual offender law was removed by lawmakers. On the other hand, the journalist stated that she was not arguing his innocence and went on to say, "He has paid for his crimes with his entire adult life, cast away like he wasn't worth redemption. It sickens me to think about how many other people are warehoused in prison, forgotten." She continued, "When tough on crime people say everyone in prison deserves to be there, think of Mr. Simmons. We should be ashamed of laws that categorically throw people away in the name of safety. We should question anyone who supports Alabama's habitual offender law. It needs to go.”