Apr 012015
 

Hats off to A. M. „Marty“ Stroud, III. There are not many like him in Louisiana, who admit their failures and have grown to go against the tide.

Stroud does know the system from both sides. Directly after graduating law school with honors in 1976, he started his career as law clerk at the U.S. Court of the Western District of Louisiana. He served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Louisiana and a First Assistant District Attorney in Caddo Parish. Since 1989, Stroud has been in private practice (civil and criminal law).

In 1984, the 33-year old lead assistant district attorney prosecuted Glenn Ford, whose murder conviction was overturned in 2014. Stroud, who had sought the death penalty and celebrated the victory with some rounds of drinks, now describes himself in a letter to the Shreveport Times:

 I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.

Marty Stroud does what he can to correct what was done to the innocent, now terminally ill man. He contacted Ford to apologize, he speaks up against capital punishment, apologizes to the victim’s family, the jury and the court. Stroud shows remorse in a video and urges the state to compensate Ford. Unfortunately, the local district court ruled differently on March 27, 2015.

Read how Stroud is connected to Vincent Simmons’ case in the book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish.” 

Please follow and like us:
0
Jan 082015
 

Comment

Co-Editor Raymond L. Daye of the Avoyelles Today writes in his article “Simmons wants hearing moved due to judge’s comments” on January 8, 2015, “Vincent Simmons, serving 100 years in Angola for convictions in connection with the rape of two girls in 1977, is seeking to have a hearing on his latest motions moved to another parish due to a judge’s comments about the case.” Read on at http://www.avoyellestoday.com/index.php/news/1871-simmons-wants-hearing-moved-due-to-judge-s-comments

The article also reports about Simmons’ prior mere arrests. Most of them, Simmons had never been indicted and tried for, let alone convicted of. Therefore, what serves this part of the article for other than giving rise to prejudice?

If it is about catching a glimpse of Simmons’ background, is the criminal background of the state’s star witness (who committed perjury at Simmons’ trial) not as important as well? Since newspaper articles only can cover a small fraction of the bigger picture, I am of the opinion that either no prior criminal record is revealed to the public or all involved parties’ background checks are exposed.

Co-Editor Daye reports “Aggravated rape of a juvenile carried the death penalty in 1977. The charges were amended to attempted aggravated rape before trial, removing the possibility of a death sentence.”

It sounds as though District Attorney “Eddie” Knoll, i.e. his wife and Assistant District Attorney Jeannette Theriot Knoll, along with Judge Earl Edwards acted on Simmons’ behalf. Yet, this is not the case at all. Daye once again fails to mention all the relevant facts and I wonder why he does that.

As I explained in detail in the chapter “Change of Charge” of the book Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish of 2011 (which is available at the local library for review!), the new aggravated rape statute in the aftermath of Gregg v. Georgia, Selman v. Louisiana  and Coker v. Georgia replaced the death penalty with a life sentence and became effective on July 10, 1977 – three days after Vincent Simmons’ preliminary hearing and eight days before his trial.

Since Simmons allegedly committed the crime on May 9, 1977, i.e. before this new statute became effective, he had to be sentenced -if found guilty of aggravated rape- as those who were resentenced from the death penalty to twenty years. Now comes the outragous: The law imposed a fifty-year sentence on those who were convicted of attempted aggravated rape, and this is the only reason why the prosecutors and the judge amended the indictment without the Grand Jury’s knowledge, let alone a True Bill, behind closed doors.

Mr. Daye, please read the book before you continue to write half-truths! The public deserves better.

Also see “Routine Character Assassination of Innocents” at http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2014/10/02/routine-character-assassination-of-innocents/

“Race Card: Judge Jeansonne’s Last Verbal Bangers” at http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2014/12/31/race-card-judge-jeansonnes-last-verbal-bangers/

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

Please follow and like us:
0
Nov 062013
 

French Quarter, New Orleans: Front of courthouse building on Royal Street. Statue is of Supreme Court Justice White. Photo by Infrogmation

French Quarter, New Orleans: Front of courthouse building on Royal Street. Statue is of Supreme Court Justice White. Photo by Infrogmation

 In the United States of America, the juvenile justice system has become more civilized in the past eight years. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the death penalty for juveniles. In 2010, the high court banned mandatory life sentences for minors convicted of non-homicide offenses such as aggravated rape. The Miller vs. Alabama  decision of June 25, 2012 held that mandatory life sentences for juvenile killers run afoul of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and are therefore unconstitutional. Louisiana was one of 28 states, which had made no difference between youthful offenders and adult offenders.

It was clear from that day that there would be a run on the courts in Louisiana by convicted juvenile murderers seeking resentencing. Around 250 prisoners, who were under the age of 18 when they committed homicides, are affected in that state alone. One of the cases before the Louisiana Supreme Court was State of Louisiana v. Darryl Tate . Tate was sentenced to life without parole for second degree murder in 1981. His case and sentence became final in 1984. The question now was whether the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller should be applied to juvenile offenders whose life sentences were handed down before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its June 25, 2012 decision.  

Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, who disagrees with the majority opinion of her court, rephrased, “Should Miller apply retroactively to cases on collateral review?”  She finds that “Miller announced a new rule of criminal procedure that is substantive and consequently should apply retroactively, entitling Mr. Tate to relief.”

Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll (who had prosecuted Vincent Simmons when she was her husband’s first assistant district attorney in Avoyelles Parish) wrote the majority opinion. She argued, “Miller does not apply retroactively in cases on collateral review as it merely sets forth a new rule of criminal constitutional procedure, which is neither substantive nor implicative of the fundamental fairness and accuracy of criminal proceedings.” In other words: In Knoll’s view, it is fair that not all juvenile lifers are eligible for parole in her state.

Yet, the courts of the neighboring State of Mississippi, for instance, have decided in their state as Chief Justice Johnson and Associate Justice Jefferson Hughes would have wanted their colleagues to do, too. It still is as it has been before: Many, many motions would not be necessary, if judges from lower courts respected the decisions of the higher courts. Vincent Simmons put it so well years ago: Why do state judges not simply follow the lead by the United States Supreme Court? According to the Times-Picayune, legal experts say that the conflict among the states means the U.S. Supreme Court likely must revisit the Miller decision.

Follow the case of Darryl Tate on the IIPPI Forum.

Also see U.S. Supreme Court: Mandatory life sentences for juveniles unconstitional

Please follow and like us:
0
Jul 102011
 

U.S. Prison Population_2008

U.S. Prison Population in 2008. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate.

The number of faces behind bars is increasing everywhere on the globe. Due to the collapsing penal system in the USA, the government is forced to enact laws that provide for the early release of elder, non-violent offenders. Yet, those released individuals remain on probation and, therefore, in the system. The higher the prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population), the more likely innocent inmates are confined. Louisiana alone is the prison “nation” number one.

When one compares the U.S. states with each other, and the USA with other countries (the poor and the rich), one realizes that the incarceration rate is not only the consequence of crime, politics and the lack of equalization of wealth, but it is also a matter of culture. The social focus in the USA is the South, once known for plantations and slavery. Nowadays, it is still the “Bible belt” that clings to the death penalty. Its “correctional” facilities on large grounds and the often brown and black people in prison clothes working the fields remind of old times.

Especially in rural areas where jobs are rare, each employee at local jails or the Department of Corrections, their families and friends enhance the lobby of the prison industry. They need convicted people to make a living and they cannot have an interest in a decrease of the prison population. Better basic education in the country and more alternative jobs would improve the chance for innocent prisoners to be heard and listened to by voters, and thus, by politicians as judges, district attorneys, sheriffs, legislators and governors.

The Innocent in Prison Project International (IIPPI) compiled information from the U.S. Census 2010, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the International Centre for Prison Studies. Today, on July 10, 2011, IIPPI provides and illustrates the data in graphics. Read on at http://www.iippi.org/pdf/population_poverty_prisoners_usa2011_statistics.pdf .

The U.S. Census of 2010 published a map on January 6, 2014, which shows how many prisoners are housed in each of the counties (Louisiana: parishes) throughout the USA. Go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/business/prisoners/index.html?template=iframe

The World Incarceration Rate graphic of 2014 by the Prison Policy might interest you as well. It does not necessarily mean that other countries or nations are more “human” than the USA (several are definitely not!), but this graphic by the Prison Policy gives a feeling of how many people are incarcerated by (U.S.) state compared to all other countries in the world. Go to the site, click on the graphic to enlarge, and see it all! Go to www.prisonpolicy.org/global/

Here is another data point: the incarceration of women in the USA and its global context. “Only 5% of the world’s female population lives in the U.S., but the U.S. accounts for nearly 30% of the world’s incarcerated women.”
http://www.prisonpolicy.org/global/women/

Update of February 2015:
Report by the VERA Institute of Justice: “Incarceration’s Front Door: The Missuse of Jails in America
Report by the Brennan Center for Justice: “Louisiana Fact Sheet-What Caused The Crime Decline?

Law Professor Bill Quigley at the Loyola University New Orleans names 40 reasons why minorities are mayorities in jails and prisons. (June 2, 2015)

How Germany does Prison – Americans on a mind-boggling incarceration road trip. (from June 16th through June 21st 2015)

This might interest you as well: Routine Character Assassination of Innocents

Please follow and like us:
0
May 222011
 

book-cover

Book Cover

If truth was as clear, powerful, and respected as water, Simmons’ actual innocence—demonstrated in the new book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish” by Katja Pumm—would wash him out of the penal system. He has been confined since Monday May 23, 1977—which falls on the same weekday this year.

TIME LINE

MONDAY, MAY 9, 1977 (approx. 9 P.M. – 12 P.M.):
Eighteen year-old Keith Laborde is driving around with his minor cousins Sharon and Karen Sanders in his old car. 

SUNDAY, MAY 22, 1977 (approx. 6 P.M.):
Sharon and Karen Sanders report to Sheriff “Potch” Didier, Major Fabius Didier, Captain Floyd Juneau and Deputy Barbara DeCuir at the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office that a “black man” raped them on May 9, 1977.

MONDAY, MAY 23, 1977:
(7 A.M.): Captain Floyd Juneau’s and Lieutenant Robert Laborde’s shift begins.
(8 A.M.): Juneau and Laborde “decide” to arrest African American Vincent Simmons.
(9 P.M.): Simmons is strolling down Waddil Street in Marksville near the St. Joseph cemetery. Lead investigator Captain Floyd Juneau and Lieutenant Robert Laborde come by in their patrol car and arrest him “on view,” without an arrest warrant, for two counts of aggravated rape. 
At the Sheriff’s Office, Potch Didier tells Captain Melvin Villemarette to establish a line-up with the arrestee. The line-up consists of one white and seven black persons. Fotos show that Simmons (number 4) is the only one in handcuffs.Keith Laborde, Sharon and Karen Sanders are together in the room behind the mirror and indentify the handcuffed man.
(approx. 9:30 A.M. – 10:00 A.M.): Officers Laborde and Villemarette take the shackled Simmons upstairs to the ID room. They do not interrogate him. Vincent Simmons refuses to sign a confession that Laborde has formulated. Lieutenant Robert Laborde shoots Simmons in his left chest missing the arrestee’s heart by three inches. Several colleagues and the sheriff witness the scene seconds later. Laborde and Villemarette allege that Simmons took Villemarette’s gun and tried to shoot them.
Before the shooting, Keith Laborde begins to give his statements to Deputy Barbara DeCuir and Captain Floyd Juneau.
Coroner F. P. Bordelon arranges for the shooting victim to be rushed to the Huey P. Long Hospital in Pineville, Louisiana. Simmons is unconscious. Lieutenant Laborde’s weapon is released for investigation.

District Attorney “Eddie” Knoll calls the victims’ family at the house of Keith Laborde’s father.Sharon and Karen Sanders give their handwritten statements.
Judge Earl Edwards now orders to arrest Vincent Simmons for the rape of Sharon and Karen Sanders. The police officers take fotos of Keith Laborde’s car and the alleged crime scene on Little California Road. Lieutenant Robert Laborde writes a supplementary report concerning the “offense” of the “investigation and shooting of Vincent Simmons” in Captain Villemarette’s and his own name.

TUESDAY, MAY 24, 1977:
Coroner F. P. Bordelon examines both girls and discovers that one of the girls’ “hymen was in tact and I was unable to insert one examining finger.” The twins mention the name “Vincent Simmons” for the first time while telling Dr. Bordelon what happened on May 9, 1977.Captain Juneau and Lieutenant Laborde request a search warrant for the homes of two of Simmons’ sisters. They seek “maroon trousers, silk looking shirt with tassle like appendages” and a “brown handle pistol about six or seven inches long.

WEDNESDAY, May 25, 1977:
(2:30 P.M.): Captain Floyd Juneau seizes a “black shirt with ruffles,” a “pair maroon jeans,” and a “pair of double knit pants (maroon in color)” at Simmons’ common law brother-in-law’s house. The investigators Floyd Juneau and Robert Laborde charge Vincent Simmons with two counts of aggravated rape and two counts of attempted murder.

FRIDAY, MAY 27, 1977:
Four days after the shooting, Vincent Simmons is released from hospital. Sheriff deputies take him back to Avoyelles Parish and put him in a one man jail cell at the Sheriff’s Department.  
 

FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 1977:
The Grand Jury of Avoyelles Parish indicts Vincent Simmons for two counts of aggravated rape and two counts of attempted murder and returns a True Bill.Coroner F. P. Bordelon formulates his findings about his medical examination of the two fourteen-year-old girls in his written reports addressed to District Attorney “Eddie” Knoll.  

THURSDAY, JUNE 23, 1977:
Public defender Harold Brouillette files a Motion for Preliminary Hearing. Judge Earl Edwards orders that “a preliminary hearing be held in the case of State of Louisiana vs. Vincent Simmons on the two counts of aggravated rape on the 7 day of July, 1977, at 1 o’clock P.M.” 
WEDNESDAY,

JUNE 29, 1977:
The United States Supreme Court rules in Coker v. Georgia that the death penalty is unconstitutional for the crime of rape.
THURSDAY, JULY 7, 1977 (1 P.M.):
After the preliminary hearing, Judge Edwards schedules Simmons’ trial for July 18, 1977.
 

THURSDAY, JULY 14, 1977:
Assistant District Attorney Jeannette Theriot Knoll files a Motion to Amend Indictment. She requests that the indictment of two counts of aggravated rape be amended to two counts of attempted aggravated rape. Judge Edwards signs the motion behind closed doors–without a second Grand Jury hearing.
Note: now after the decision in Coker v. Georgia, aggravated rape only carried a twenty-year sentence per count upon conviction because there was no other law in the books yet. Attempted aggravated rape, however, would imprison Simmons for fifty years per count, if convicted. 
 

MONDAY, JULY 18, 1977: jury selection 

TUESDAY, JULY 19 and WEDNESDAY, JULY 20, 1977: trial. It ends with a guilty verdict. 

THURSDAY, JULY 28, 1977:Judge Earl Edwards imposes a one hundred-year sentence (fifty years for each count, to run consecutive).

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

Please follow and like us:
0

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)