Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll’s second 10-year-term expires at the end of this year. In 1977, Associate Justice Knoll was her husband’s first assistant district attorney and prosecuted Vincent Simmons. State law prescribes that a judge can not seek re-election after they reach the age of 70. On January 23, 2016, is Justice Knoll’s 73rd birthday. She announced on Monday (Jan. 11, 2016) that she planned to retire on New Year’s Eve and to spend more time with her family, especially with her grand-children. In order to celebrate Justice Knoll’s 20 years on the highest bench of Louisiana, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal judges hosted a special reception in her honor on January 8 at the City Club in River Ranch (Lafayette) reported the local Advertiser. Colleagues and judges from across the state attended the celebration.
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/.
Judge Mark Jeansonne and his successor
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
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
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
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.
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:
Case summary with documents on the Innocent in Prison Project International website at http://cases.iippi.org/vincent-alfred-simmons/
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.”
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?
Online discussion with Judge Mark Jeansonne
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:
34th anniversary of a crime that is still being committed, but ignored
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.
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/
Former long-term Avoyelles Parish District Attorney “Eddie” Knoll and his wife, current Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll, prosecuted Vincent Simmons for two counts of aggravated rape in 1977.
One week ago, the married couple lost the oldest of its five children. Triston Kane Knoll (June 4, 1971-April 8, 2011), a very eager and hard working attorney, died in Alexandria, Louisiana, at the young age of 39. The Avoyelles Today reported.
One of the Honorary Pallbearers was Freeman Ford. He had been District Attorney Eddie Knoll’s administrative assistant and one of the key players in Simmons’ case, who have remained in the background.