Nov 102017
 

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Jan 192016
 

Raymond Julian Laborde (August 18, 1927 – January 17, 2016) is dead. Without its icon, Marksville’s “good old days” are almost over. On January 20, 2016, his interment will be at the St. Joseph Cemetery #1 (the same place, where Vincent Simmons allegedly threatened Sharon and Karen Sanders and their cousin Keith Laborde to kill them, if they told anyone of the rapes.)

Raymond Laborde’s first triumph was when he defeated his lifelong friend Edwin Edwards for senior class president at the local high school in 1943. Six years later, the Loyola graduate launched the Raymond’s Department Store, which he was running to the very end. It was directly across the street from the court house and much more than a simple clothing store. It was a place where small town politics was made.

Raymond Laborde held several honorary posts, served three terms as Mayor of Marksville, twenty years as state legislator in Baton Rouge, and four years as Commissioner of Administration under Governor Edwin Edwards. Since 2003, Laborde has been a member of the Political Hall of Fame in Louisiana.

A few years ago, he – along with District Attorney Charles Riddle – spearheaded the movement against Republican Ex-Governor Bobby Jindal’s proposal to privatize or even to close prisons in central Louisiana, especially the Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport, where one of Laborde’s sons works as a GED teacher.

Some people wonder how Raymond Laborde has managed to keep a clean slate throughout all those decades in politics, while a number of his best friends and politicians close to him were investigated or even convicted.

Read more in the book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish.”

These articles might interest you:

Jobs – a free ticket for nearly everything in politics

Legislators slowly react to Louisiana’s collapsing penal system

USA: Almost 50% of all prisoners worldwide are in the “Land of the Free”

Ex-Governor Edwin Edwards back on stage

Ex-Governor Edwin Edwards’ credibility

 

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Jan 312015
 

The evidence of his set up is for anyone readable in the open. When will Vincent Simmons of Avoyelles Parish be freed and exonerated at last?

See the long list of exonerated prisoners on the IIPPI Forum and the report of the National Registry of Exonerations of January 27, 2015. The increase from 91 exonerations in 2013 to 125 in 2014 is explained by the rise of “Conviction Integrity Units.”

In Louisiana, Reginald Adams (murder), Nathan Brown (sexual assault) and Glenn Ford (murder) were exonerated. All of them are African Americans.

How to Force Prosecutors to Play Fair? Or: How to Stop Overzealous Prosecutors?
Money is the key. Read on at www.iippi.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=170&t=15841&p=21936#p21936

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Dec 312014
 

Graphic: Ensuring equal justice under law versa the interlocking of different interests.

Graphic: Ensuring equal justice under law versa the interlocking of different interests.

Comment

Vincent Simmons told me a while ago that he had mailed a Writ of Habeas Corpus to the trial court at Marksville on October 31, 2014. It was filed on November 6, 2014. He used information contained in the book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish,” which had not been used in any motion before. Simmons says, the court (Judge Mark Jeansonne) ordered the district attorney to answer by December 16, 2014. On December 18th, Judge Jeansonne scheduled a hearing on the motion, reports the Avoyelles Today. But  after opening the session, the judge ruled to postpone any further proceedings until next year. Why?

Today is Judge Jeansonne’s last day in office. His second term expires and tomorrow Kerry Spruill is the new judge (Division A) of the 12th judicial district. Spruill is dealing with the case next year. (See his background at http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2014/10/24/judge-mark-jeansonne-and-his-successor/)

Now at the end of 2014, Jeansonne does not leave his position without firing his last verbal bangers and using the local newspapers (Avoyelles Today and The Town Talk) to spread half-truths (if not even lies) about the only case before him, which gained not only national but international attention.

The Town Talk article is based on the Avoyelles Today article. Therefore, I only comment on the latter:

  • The victims’ cousin was not tied up, but allegedly put in the trunk of his own car.
  • Co-Editor Daye writes, “Then-District Attorney Eddie Knoll amended the aggravated rape indictments to attempted aggravated rape.” For whatever reason Daye does not mention the outrageous: This was illegal, because it was done secretly behind closed doors. There is no True Bill in which the Grand Jury voted on trying Vincent Simmons for attempted aggravated rape. The Grand Jury indicted Vincent Simmons, because the jurors decided that there was evidence of aggravated rape. Accordingly, there was no evidence for mere attempt. However, the “attempt” conviction carried a much longer sentence at that time than an actual aggravated rape conviction. Thus, the Grand Jury should have been called in again to decide on whether or not to indict Simmons for attempted aggravated rape. This never happened, and the people in Louisiana should do know!
  • The co-editor quotes Jeansonne, “In fact, in the recent judge’s election, one candidate lost many votes because he would not ‘promise’ Simmons a new trial. Judges have to be independent and free from undue influence of any kind.” Does this mean that Judge Kerry Spruill was elected because he promised anything to Simmons’ supporters?! I doubt that Spruill agrees with this allegation or logical conclusion. Yes, elected judges are supposed to be independent, which contradicts itself. Ensuring equal justice under law often clashes with the interlocking of different interests. Why are not all judges (not only federal judges) appointed or obligated to climb up the ladder like other professionals?
  • Jeansonne complains about Simmons playing the race-card. I do not know who is crying racism, but one thing is certain: When Judge Jeansonne chose to discuss the case publicly on the IIPPI Forum with me, he was the only one who made race a central theme. This alone demonstrates that after all these years he still does not get to the core of the problem in this case. It is about police misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct, judicial misconduct, ineffectiveness of counsel and perjury – not race! But of course, since most Avoyelleans are white, they may feel insulted or annoyed without looking into the case themselves, if they believe what Judge Jeansonne alleges about Simmons and his supporters. Is this Jeansonne’s goal? Does he want to “inflame” the citizens of the parish?

I wonder why Jeansonne talks publicly about a specific case in the first place. I also wonder why this one case is always Simmons’. If Jeansonne is so convinced of Simmons being guilty and just trying to fool everyone, Jeansonne could just lay back, relax and move on with his lawyer life. Why wasting time for nonsense?!

Judge Spruill, please do the right thing! – Does Jeansonne not sleep well at night anymore? It would be understandable, would it not? One simply cannot be convinced of anything that one cannot corroborate with proof, while evidence of the contrary literally jumps at one.

The newspaper articles are entitled:

“Jeansonne has parting words in Simmons’ case”
by Raymond L. Daye, Co-Editor
published Dec. 22, 2014
http://avoyellestoday.com/index.php/news/1830-jeansonne-has-parting-words-in-simmons-case

and

“Change of venue requested after remarks by Avoyelles judge”
by Melissa Gregory
published Dec. 30, 2014
http://www.thetowntalk.com/story/news/local/2014/12/30/change-venue-requested-remarks-avoyelles-judge/21070819/

I have seen somewhere else on the internet that people still ask, why this case has never been properly investigated by law enforcement officers, or why Simmons is denied relief from prison. The answer is in the book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish.” But logically, as you may have seen on the IIPPI Forum, some involved Avoyelleans like Mark Jeansonne would not want you to read it.

This may interest you as well:

http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2014/10/24/judge-mark-jeansonne-and-his-successor/

Case summary with documents on the Innocent in Prison Project International website at http://cases.iippi.org/vincent-alfred-simmons/

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Oct 242014
 

Graphic: Ensuring equal justice under law versa the interlocking of different interests.

Graphic: Ensuring equal justice under law versa the interlocking of different interests.

On November 4th, 2014 is election day in Avoyelles Parish, the parish with Louisiana‘s strongest prison lobby. In January of 2014, Judge Jeansonne of the 12th Judicial District announced in an open letter to the residents published by the local newspaper that he would not seek reelection. He is retiring after 12 years (2 terms) in office, two close races against Kerry Spruill, an investigation for allegations of election fraud (2008), an investigation and decree by the Louisiana Board of Ethics with order verdict of guilty (2011), and at least one more confidential investigation (2013) behind closed doors by the Office of Special Counsel (Judiciary Commission of Louisiana).

Kerry Spruill and Mark Jeansonne both each spent more than US$ 100,000 for their last campaigns. While Spruill had the funds needed in his own pocket, Jeansonne had to take out a loan. Jeansonne’s re-election campaign of 2008 received contributions in excess of the contribution limit from family Knoll. (“Eddie” Knoll and Jeannette Theriot Knoll-the parents of Edward Knoll, Jr., Edmond Knoll, and Triston Knoll-prosecuted Vincent Simmons in 1977.)

Three candidates are running for judge now: Andrea Ducote Aymond, Barry Ray Laiche and Kerry Spruill.

Hundreds if not thousands of Avoyelleans contribute to the campaigns of the candidates in any way and, therefore, one might believe that an interest in justice and politics exists in this parish. On the other hand, this same parish is known internationally for the high profile case State of Louisiana vs. Vincent Simmons, because, if given the chance, the factually and actually innocent prisoner could prove he is not-guilty of the crime he was convicted of back in 1977. Yet, nobody of those who appear to be so dedicated to justice now break the taboo and demand either an evidentiary hearing or a retrial for Simmons.

If I called Avoyelles Parish my home and were entitled to vote, I would confront each candidate with the malicious prosecution and unfair trial. I would want to know from them, if they want to do something about this obvious miscarriage of justice, and if so, what they would do. I would run my own campaign so to speak, just to get long due answers. I would do anything in my power so that my fellow man‘s case cannot be hushed up any longer, neither in the local public, nor in court. I think, this is the least one should do as a responsible citizen and voter before one elects the powers that be into office.

But nothing to that effect happens – and therefore, nothing fundamental will change in close knit Avoyelles Parish. It is just the same old run for position, power and prestige as every six years. The candidates depend on the voters, and the voters in turn one day might depend on the elected judge’s decision. Simply donate to all of the candidates‘ campaigns (the more, the better up to US$ 2,500 per person and campaign) and chances are good that it will pay off for you and your family. A saying goes: „You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.“

What claims candidate Andrea Ducote Aymond? “Politics have no place in a court of law.“ How true and ethical! Unfortunately, the reality looks different. The problem is that state judges in the USA are in fact politicians, because they are elected into office by supporters and voters who one day might appear before them in their courtroom. There are many different interest groups an elected judge may feel obligated to „give something back“ to. In a system like that, it is impossible for Aymond (or any honest candidate) to „promise to decide each case fairly, based upon its own unique facts and circumstances, void of any outside pressure or influence.” But she does pretend exactly that in her announcement.

No single judge has ever shown true interest in the facts and circumstances of Simmons‘ case so far. They have not taken the time; they have no idea of the facts; and they do not care, because their personal interests are intertwined with political and economic interests of themselves and others. (This is explained in detail in the book „Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish,“ which is said to be available at the local library.) The Judge of the 12th Judicial District (Division A) in Louisiana is both a political judge and a judging politician. If a candidate wants his potential voters to believe something else, he is either naive or caught in his first lie.

No matter who becomes judge on November 4th, Vincent Simmons probably remains confined behind bars despite overwhelming evidence of his setup.

Candidates for Judgeship

Andrea Ducote Aymond: (Runoff election result: 5,513 votes/ 46%)
(She characterizes herself as the most compassionate candidate)

The life-long Avoyellean (Democrat) with deep family roots was born in 1978 and is younger than Vincent Simmons‘ nightmare in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. If elected, the carreer woman and mother of three boys will be the first female district judge in the history of Avoyelles Parish. Since 2005, Aymond has been District Attorney Charles Riddle’s Special Victim’s Prosecutor and is trained in protecting the interests of women, children and the elderly. In private practice, she is specialized in family law.

Aymond’s campaign office:
109 South Main Street, Marksville, La. 71351
Phone: (318) 253-6848
Email: andreaaymondforjudge@gmail.com

External Links:
http://www.aymondlawfirm.com/Attorney-Profile.html
http://andreaaymond.com/
https://www.facebook.com/andreaaymondforjudge
http://www.avoyellestoday.com/index.php/news/1087-aymond-candidate-for-district-judge-a-seat

Barry Ray Laiche: (He characterizes himself as the most courageous candidate)

Barry Ray Laiche, the father of three children, proud Republican and convinced opponent of gun control laws, obtained his Juris Doctorate in 1993, graduating cum laude. He has been practicing law for 21 years (personal injury, workers’ compensation, social security disability and maritime injury) and has handled litigation in all state and federal courts throughout Louisiana. Among others, he is a member of the Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel. Laiche is not as deeply rooted in the parish as his opponents and says that he does not accept contributions from lawyers, „because he wants to avoid a possible public perception of favoritism based on who contributed to his campaign and who didn’t“ reports the Avoyelles Today.

In criminal matters, Laiche’s priority is an unbiased jury. He says that if an unbiased jury cannot be guaranteed, „it is the judge’s duty to move the case (out of parish) to ensure that the defendant has a fair trial.” Laiche also distinguishes between non-violent offenders and offenders who do harm to society.

Barry Laiche’s Law Office:
237 S Washington St, Marksville, La. 71351
Phone: 318-253-4435
Email: blaiche@laicheattorney.com

External Links:
http://www.provosty.com/site11.php#laiche
http://www.martindale.com/Barry-Ray-Laiche/593144-lawyer.htm
https://www.facebook.com/barry.laiche
http://www.avoyellestoday.com/index.php/news/1562-judge-candidates-discuss-issues-in-debate

Kerry Spruill: (* NEW JUDGE! Runoff election result: 6,370 votes/ 54%)
(He characterizes himself as the most experienced candidate)

Kerry Spruill (Democrat) is the father of one son and lives in Vincent Simmons‘ home town Mansura. He was District Judge Michael Johnson’s elected successor from 1997 through 2002 after the latter had been removed from office by the justices of the Louisiana Supreme Court for judicial misconduct. Long term District Attorney Jerold Edward „Eddie“ Knoll (Vincent Simmons‘ prosecutor) and his oldest son Triston Knoll each contributed US$ 2,500 to Spruill’s campaign, which was a multiple of what other local lawyers supplied the candidate with. When Mark Jeansonne ran against incumbent Spruill in 2002 and won the election, Spruill then partnered with retired Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Eddie Knoll in private practice.

Spruill says that he was a good judge, and that none of his decisions were reversed on appeal. In his announcement of this year, Spruill promises, „My commitment is to bring our courts to the people of this parish with rulings that are founded in justice – not politics or personalities.“ He stresses that he „will render sound decisions after careful consideration of the evidence and law.“

Spruill’s campaign headquarters:
219 North Main St., Marksville, La. 73151
Phone: (318) 240-7504
Email: spruilllaw@bellsouth.net

External Links:
http://www.avoyellestoday.com/index.php/news/965-spruill-seeks-12th-judicial-district-seat
http://www.martindale.com/Kerry-L-Spruill/596466-lawyer.htm
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008258311066
http://www.avoyellestoday.com/index.php/news/1562-judge-candidates-discuss-issues-in-debate

Other Elections
District Judge William J. „Billy“ Bennett (Division B) and District Attorney Charles A. „Charlie“ Riddle do not have opponents, and thus they automatically stay in office for another 6-year term.

My hope is that the people of Avoyelles Parish will be less indifferent in 2020, when new candidates are running for judge and district attorney.

Tip
Louisiana Attorney General James D. „Buddy“ Caldwell’s term expires on January 11, 2016. Caldwell is running for re-election and is challenged by former Congressman Jeff Landry. The election will be in October of 2015.
For inspiration what an attorney general could do, read New York State Attorney General Schneiderman’s letter (dated December 8, 2014) to Governor Cuomo. In the aftermath of several highlighted police shootings and no true-bills or indictments returned by grand juries, Schneiderman requests the power to prosecute the police when local district attorneys won’t.

Louisiana Governor (Republican) Piyush “Bobby” Jindal’s second term expires on January 11, 2016, too. Since he cannot be reelected in 2015 anyway, this might be a opportunity to appeal for pardon for Vincent Simmons. However, this would take much more than a simple petition. Vincent Simmons would need a great and convincing plan. Someone like a politician does not put his name on the line for anyone or anything he is not convinced of. Simmons would need a home, a full-time job with a promising future to support himself, health care, and professional help to guide him in all kind of situations after almost 40 years having been locked away from this world. Go to the “Success in the Community”-matrix here.

For election results and more, go to the Secretary of State Website.

This might be of interest as well:
http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2011/07/29/online-discussion-with-judge-mark-jeansonne/

http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2014/10/14/poll-retrial-hearing-or-prison/

http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2014/12/31/race-card-judge-jeansonnes-last-verbal-bangers/

http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2015/08/15/the-problem-with-mayors-courts/

Case summary with documents on the Innocent in Prison Project International website at http://cases.iippi.org/vincent-alfred-simmons/

External Link:

Spruill sworn in as district judge
Published: 05 January 2015
By Raymond L. Daye, Co-Editor
“Kerry Spruill, who served as judge from 1997-2003, was sworn in by by his friend, state Supreme Court Associate Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll of Marksvlle. In an hour-long ceremony, Spruill was praised by her husband and his former boss Eddie Knoll as well as others for his dedication to the law.”
http://avoyellestoday.com/index.php/news/1864-spruill-sworn-in-as-district-judge

Everybody seems to be happy. I am just missing the “We are family” in this article. Or am I wrong and Judge Spruill is going to surprise all of us, indeed?

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Oct 152014
 

Feedback by K.G. of Central Louisiana
October 14, 2014

Wow, this is very interesting! I really don’t believe this really happened. I can believe that he was framed because the whites back then in Avoyelles Parish were very prejudice and most are still. You didn’t hear any of this back in the day. In fact I went to school with these twins Karen and Sharon. We were in the same classes throughout the schools years. I always wondered why they never returned back to school. Small world of wonder! I think he should get a new trial. Framed!

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Jan 192014
 


forest_k

Forest Hammond Martin showing his executive clemency document signed by Governor Edwin Edwards and with a golden seal.
Courtesy Forest Hammond Martin, Sr.

Book-Review

In April of 1973, Forest “Saint” Hammond Martin was a juvenile of 17 years in Baton Rouge, who was to graduate from Capitol High School. The African-American (1/4 Blackfoot Indian and 1/4 Jewish) was a local football star with a full athletic scholarship to Southern Illinois College (SIC) in his pocket. His future looked glorious – maybe too glorious. He had lost his mother at the age of 14, worked hard for his father’s janitorial business, was invited to many parties, had several girl-friends, had fathered a little baby-girl, had no criminal record, and yet, he was street smart with a tendency to overestimate himself.

Saint’s life changed dramatically on April 10, 1973 when he was present at an attempted armed robbery going wrong in a drugstore of his hometown. This is the story that Forest Hammond Martin tells in his autobiography “With Edwards in the Governor’s Mansion: From Angola to Free Man”, edited by Tom Aswell and published by the Pelican Publishing Company of Gretna, Louisiana, in 2012.

The author writes that the only reason why he was at the crime scene was that he wanted to convince the triggerman, whom he did not know, of not doing it before someone got hurt. Saint admits that he did make a grave mistake in that pharmacy though. The white murder victim was Billy Middleton, a 55 year old pharmacist. Middleton was friend with District Attorney Ossie Brown  and Judge Elmo E. Lear of East Baton Rouge Parish who both handled this criminal case.

The authorities did know that Saint was not the killer. They also had the true perpetrator in custody soon, who confessed. Nevertheless, at least four uniformed police officers with a shotgun and revolvers in their hands, two policemen with dogs and motorcycle cops came to the high school student’s house, put him in handcuffs telling his father that his son was not arrested but merely driven to the station to let Saint look at some pictures. They pretended that the handcuffs were needed by law for insurance reasons only. Therefore, no Miranda  warnings had been given to Saint and no defense attorney was called.

The detectives told Saint that they had arrested two other boys and that one of them – the shooter – implicated Saint in the crime. Nevertheless, the officers promised the youngster that he could go to college, if he gave a statement to them. In the statement itself however, Saint was to say that no promises had been made to him. Manipulations of any kind violate the Miranda doctrine. Saint got jailed and faced the danger of being raped for the first time in his life.

On May 18, 1973 one of the detectives testified in a hearing before District Judge Elmo E. Lear that they had arrested Saint at his home reading him the Miranda rights in front of his father and that they had not been aware of the fact that the arrestee had a scholarship to play football in college. They also denied their misconduct regarding the promise they had made to the football star.

As in Vincent Simmons’ case, the detectives lied to cover up their unethical conduct and illegal practices. The difference with Simmons’ case is that the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff Deputies have never been forced to testify under oath in court so far.

Saint’s public defender had just graduated from law school with either little or no experience in court. He had a conversation with Judge Lear behind closed doors.  Before Saint entered the room, he heard Lear say, “Now Warren, this conference never happened.”

Without his knowledge, Saint was to be the State’s star witness in the true perpetrator’s trial. When District Attorney Brown realized that his witness-to-be had no idea of the deal, the bargain burst before it was sealed. Yet, the sensation-seeking press reported anyway. Thanks to misinformation by professionals, Saint became the declared snitch throughout Louisiana’s jails and prisons. One of the unwritten laws behind bars is that “only a dead rat is a good rat.”

On October 15, 1973 Saint was arraigned for the murder charge in Judge Lear’s courtroom. His new lawyer advised that the accused had to plead guilty, if he did not want to receive a 99-year prison sentence for armed robbery, or capital punishment without the possibility of parole, probation, commutation or suspension of sentence for murder, in case Saint insisted to go to trial.

Once again Saint and his father were lied to. The defense attorney alleged that if Saint pled guilty, he would not serve his time at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola but at a trade school with sports program for first-offender youth at DeQuincy. That institution was just for short-timers though. There, Saint could earn his weekend-passes to come home. The lawyer also said that the judge would pardon Saint after two years. However, the attorney instructed the defendant that if the judge asked whether or not any promises had been made, Saint had to say ‘no.’

The sentence was “automatic,” as Judge Lear expressed it: Natural life at Angola. Yet, the tricky thing with the bargain was that because of the protecting “double jeopardy” rule, which allowed the State to prosecute Saint for one crime (either murder or armed robbery) only, there was no deal either way. Plus, Saint did not personally enter a plea of guilty. This means that he had never been convicted and, therefore, was entitled to be back in court. But no one in power whom his father was connected with actually wanted to stand up for Saint since the “case [was] too hot.”

butler_k

Butler Forest Hammond Martin at the Governor’s Mansion in 1979.
Courtesy Forest Hammond Martin, Sr.

Saint entered the prison as “fresh fish” (common name for imprisoned newbies) and immediately started a positive career. For his brighter mind, extraordinary typing skills and sporting talent, Saint made it within 5 years and 10 months from an ordinary field slave, to an inmate lawyer, light-heavy boxing champion (also fighting in Governor Edwards’  and Vincent Simmons’ home parish  for charity fundraisers at the high-schools in Simmesport  and Bunkie), and eventually he became one of the First Family’s butlers at the governor’s mansion.

Saint continued to fight his illegal confinement in the courts. In April of 1975, Judge Lear denied the prisoner’s first habeas corpus petition in the 19thJudicial District Court. On August 14, 1978 and on September 6, 1978 there were two evidentiary hearings before Magistrate Judge Frank J. Polozola in the United States District Court, Middle District of Louisiana. Polozola was forced by the evidence to admit, “We don’t have a conviction here.”

At that time, Saint’s former defense attorney was Assistant District Attorney for the East Baton Rouge Parish. The same change of sides happened in Vincent Simmons’ case. Michael Kelly, one of his two public defense attorneys also became an Assistant of District Attorney “Eddie” Knoll. Nowadays, Kelly is the First Assistant District Attorney in Avoyelles Parish.

Magistrate Judge Polozola ate dinner at the governor’s mansion to discuss this criminal case with Edwin Edwards and to ask him not to pardon Saint. Governor Edwards promptly stated that no one should be imprisoned without a conviction. District Attorney Ossie Brown threatened Edwards with massive public protest, if Saint stayed in the mansion instead of in Angola. Magistrate Judge Polozola eventually denied Saint’s motion after 15 months and Governor Edwards pardoned Saint on January 16, 1980 despite all odds. In 2000, Polozola would be the judge in Governor Edwards’ federal racketeering trial and sentence him to 10 years in prison.

When Forest Hammond Martin was a free man again, he fought a couple of months for Sugar Ray Leonard’s Boxing gym in Maryland. Then he worked successfully for the Baton Rouge Public Defender Office and had his own janitorial businesses and employees in Baton Rouge and Alexandria. Now, Saint is a boxing instructor, educates at-risk-youth, and is the dean of the Alexandria branch of the Institute of Divine Metaphysical Research. At his relatively young age, he is the father of six, grandfather and even great-grandfather.

This book paints (and illustrates through photos) a lot of vivid scenes in the complex life of a prisoner that average people out here cannot know. The criminal justice and penal systems are a cosmos of their own. The two books “With Edwards in the Governor’s Mansion – From Angola to Free Man” and “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish” are true stories far beyond clichés. They complement each other. Both are witnesses of more or less the same era, the same places, the same top official, the same culture, and the same system.  Customers who viewed this item also viewed the other” one might encourage interested readers in order to expand the bigger picture. These books are especially recommended to residents and voters in Louisiana – the state with the highest incarceration rate in the USA, the top-prison nation worldwide for many, many years.

Note: In spring of 2015, Forest Hammond Martin publicly joined the party that wants to keep Vincent Simmons in prison at all costs. He changed his vote on the poll of the book’s Facebook page from “Grant Vincent Simmons a hearing” to “Keep Vincent Simmons in prison!” without trying to prove Simmons’ guilt as I ask opponents to do.

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Nov 052013
 

Twelve Years a Slave – And Plantation Life in the Antebellum South  is a narrative by Solomon Northup as told to David Wilson. It was published in 1853. As Harriet Beacher Stove’s novel, Uncle Ben’s Cabin (1852) ,Northup’s true story book became a bestseller as well.

Solomon Northup was a married African-American man and father, who was born free in Saratoga Springs, New York, but kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841, sold into slavery, and kept in bondage on major plantations in Louisiana for twelve years – nine of those in Avoyelles Parish (Vincent Simmons’ home parish). Avoyelles judge Ralph Cushman eventually granted Northup’s freedom.

More than 100 years later, Dr. Sue Eakin, a historian, journalist and professor from Bunkie in Avoyelles Parish, re-discovered the book while researching Louisiana’s history. She co-edited the 1853 slave diary by Northup. The LSU Press published it in 1968.   

Audio Book

A 2013 British-American drama film on the story starring among others Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup,  Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps (a cruel plantation owner) and Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass (a Canadian carpenter who is a key player in Northup’s liberation) and directed by Steve McQueen was released by Fox Searchlight Pictures on October 18, 2013. The locations, where the movie was filmed, were in Jefferson Parish and in New Orleans.

Press Conference in Toronto, Canada

The press conference in Toronto, Canada, began with the question if the movie was about race. In response, Director McQueen rolled his eyes and stressed that he had wanted to make a film about slavery since he (and many others who contributed to this project) was a part of that history. It is not just about race. It is beyond that. He made clear that race was just involved – it was just a part of it.

Protagonist Ejiofor expressed it simply: It is about human dignity. The leading actors of 12 Years A Slave agreed that the story is very complex. It is beyond clichés. One cannot judge in black and white. It is about love and pain. Every one of the audience probably can identify with something or someone.

Basically, there is no difference between being a slave (Solomon Northup), who was born free, then kidnapped and sold into slavery, and being a prisoner (Vincent Simmons) for a crime he did not commit. Both the slave and the prisoner have illegally lost their freedom and are victims of  a system that is terribly manipulated by money interests. Slavery is the past – prison industry is the present.

———————————————————–

Read about the first Northup Freedom Fest (November 2, 2014) in Marksville at http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2014/10/30/freedom-fest/

This article of the local Avoyelles Today might interest the historian or tourist in you:
Renovated Epps House dedicated at LSU-A

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Oct 092011
 

Yesterday, the Town Talk of Alexandria, Louisiana, announced the 59th wedding anniversary of the parents of the State’s star witness (Keith Laborde), who had testified against Vincent Simmons 34 years ago. John and Joan Sherman Laborde live in the Avoyelles Parish seat Marksville and married on October 5, 1952.

On May 22, 1977, John Laborde made his minor nieces report that a “black man” had raped them on May 9, 1977. That night in question, Keith Laborde and the twin girls allegedly had a flat tire in Marksville. Although they still had to drive all the way to their grandparents in the Brouillette community, around 10 miles north of the town, the three teenagers did not ask John Laborde for help. One of them testified at trial that they had not even thought of going to Keith Laborde’s father. Why not?

Prosecutor “Eddie” Knoll used the remainder of the “tire” as evidence to prove two counts of “Attempted Aggravated Rape.” The State did not introduce any other physical evidence.

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Jul 292011
 

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Book Cover

There is an interesting discussion with Judge Mark Jeansonne of Avoyelles Parish on the Innocent in Prison Project International forum about Vincent Simmons’ case and the book Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish. Does anyone want to join in and vote on whether or not you want Simmons to be granted an evidentiary hearing or re-trial? Or do you agree with Judge Jeansonne who chose to vote for “Keep Vincent Simmons in prison”?

Judge Mark Jeansonne’s re-election campaign of 2008 received contributions in excess of the contribution limit from family Knoll. See the Louisiana Board of Ethics’ order here.  “Eddie” Knoll and Jeannette Theriot Knoll (the parents of Edward Knoll, Jr., Edmond Knoll, and Triston Knoll) prosecuted Vincent Simmons in 1977.

This might interest you as well:
http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2014/10/14/poll-retrial-hearing-or-prison/

http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2014/10/24/judge-mark-jeansonne-and-his-successor/

http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2014/12/31/race-card-judge-jeansonnes-last-verbal-bangers/

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