Freeman Ford (March 10, 1950 – March 14, 2018) of Marksville, Louisiana, has passed away. He was Keith’s father’s “go-to-man” in the black community.
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:
This upcoming Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., the city of Marksville invites the public to the courthouse square to celebrate the 161st anniversary of Solomon Northup’s liberation, report the Town Talk and the Avoyelles Today.
Without the movie “Twelve Years A Slave“ (2013) with Brad Pitt, this Freedom Fest probably would not have been called into being this year. But now, business men and women in Avoyelles Parish use Solomon Northup’s story to attract tourists. Frank Eakin states to the Town Talk, “I see this (the Northup Freedom Celebration) as a symbolic move forward, the completion of a cycle which began with intolerance and ends in mutual compassion and understanding.“
Among the special guests will be two actresses and ten descendents of Northup’s and his slave masters.
Just a thought: Would some “Free Vincent Simmons“ posters, banners, t-shirts combined with copies of the book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish“ cause irritation or rather “compassion and understanding” at the historic event?
More about the book and the movie “Twelve Years A Slave” at http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2013/11/05/twelve-years-a-slave/
Judge Benjamin Clyde Bennett, Jr. passed away at his residence in Marksville on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at the age of 88. He was the judge who presided at the Avoyelles Parish District Court and denied Vincent Simmons’ Application for a Writ of Mandamus in 1988, in which the prisoner had requested a copy of his arrest report.
His son, Judge William Joseph Bennett, is alleged to have been the sentencing judge in Simmons’ case, according to defense lawyer Laurie White’s review of the pre-parole report. The true trial judge was Judge Earl Edwards, who died in 1998 at the age of 90.
Judge Benjamin C. Bennett’s second son, John Taylor Bennett, also is a lawyer. He partnered with retired District Attorney Charles A. Riddle, Jr. (the father of current District Attorney Charles A. Riddle, III) who had previously practiced with “Eddie” Knoll (Simmons’ prosecutor).
Go to the obituary here.
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.
He is a native of Marksville (Avoyelles Parish), Democrat, was Louisiana’s first Roman Catholic governor (1972-1976, 1976-1980, 1984-1988, 1992-1996), signed Louisiana’s Constitution of 1974, is labeled as “crook”, “gambler” and “womanizer,” and he served a federal prison term from 2002 until 2011 for a corruption conviction involving riverboat casino licenses.
As Vincent Simmons, Edwards has maintained his innocence from the start. Even officially political opponents as David C. Treen and J. Bennett Johnston, Jr. believe Edwards was railroaded. They asked U.S. President George W. Bush to pardon him in 2007, but Republican Bush denied the then 80-year-old early release on pardon.
As his late friend “Potch” Didier, former long-term sheriff of Avoyelles Parish, Edwards always was ahead of his time. After the Civil Rights Movement, many women and most African-Americans did not vote for conservative candidates. The “Cajun King,” as Edwards also was called, was a minority-friendly politician. The people of Louisiana elected the charismatic Avoyellean with lots of wit four times as governor and made him an undefeated record holder.
Even now, the convicted and released white collar criminal still has many supporters and connections. Edwards indicated to the media that he feels he is more popular today than before his conviction due to him taking the injustice in his case like a man.
No doubt, Edwin Edwards has returned to society with a bang as though he wanted to announce his comeback with a “Now-more-than-ever” attitude. Leo Honeycutt, an award winning journalist and author, wrote Edwin Edwards’ newest biography when the federal inmate was still confined. Trina Grimes Scott (32) of Alexandria, Louisiana, read the book, wrote and visited Edwards (83) in prison. Both will marry this Friday before Edwards’ 84th birthday on August 7, 2011.
Edwin Edwards has a Facebook page and his (third) soon-to-be-wife posts much about her life with him on the social network platform. The 16-year-governor is in the spotlight again. The couple attends public events, tours the state promoting his biography, and might participate in a reality television show in the near future.
Edwin Edwards is a retired lawyer and politician, but he never seems to quit being an entertainer. How far is he going for publicity?
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/