Reporter and producer for WBRC, Beth Shelburne, is bringing attention to Willie Simmons, a man who has spent the last 38 years in prison for stealing $9. He was convicted of 1st-degree robbery and sentenced to life without parole in Alabama.
See her tweet below:
According to the Alabama reporter, in 1982, Simmons, an Army veteran who became addicted to drugs while stationed overseas, was prosecuted under Alabama's habitual offender law because he had three prior convictions.
Mr. Simmons was told when he was 25 that he would die in prison. He is now 62 and the last time he had a visitor was 2005, right after his sister died.
Presently, Mr. Simmons is incarcerated at Holman, one of the most violent prisons in the country. He is studying for his GED and "tries to stay away from the wild bunch."
Mr. Simmons admitted to being high on drugs when he committed the crime that landed him in prison for life. "I was just trying to get me a quick fix," he explained.
Simmons recalled to Shelburne that his trial lasted 25 minutes and his appointed attorney called no witnesses. Prosecutors did not offer him a plea deal, even though all of his prior offenses were nonviolent.
Over the years, he's filed appeal after appeal, with no lawyer. All were denied.
In 2014, lawmakers removed the last avenue of appeal for people like Mr. Simmons serving life without parole under the habitual offender law. The Habitual Offender Law can trigger a life prison sentence – sometimes even life without the possibility of parole – depending on a defendant's criminal record, According to AL.com
Simmons hopes the powers that be in Alabama will reconsider his cruel sentence, "Yes, I've been hoping and praying on it," he said. "I ain't giving up."
Beth Shelburne is not arguing for his innocence, but feels he has paid for his crime. “It sickens me to think about how many other people are warehoused in prison, forgotten,” she tweeted. “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.”
Let’s hope that this story gets the traction it needs to draw attention to this case.