By Jennifer Henderson, CNN
Vincent Simmons, a Louisiana man who fought for 44 years to overturn his conviction on attempted aggravated rape charges, has had the judgment vacated and the charges have been dismissed, according to his attorneys Justin Bonus and Malcolm Larvadain.
“He’s a free man. He was released a couple of hours ago from Angola State Penitentiary,” Larvadain said Monday.
A judge had ordered a new trial because exculpatory evidence had not been turned over to the original defense team, Larvadain said.
In 1977, it took just minutes for a jury of 11 White men and one Black woman to convict Simmons, who is Black, for the attempted sexual assault of 14-year-old twin sisters.
“God. God kept hope alive in me,” Simmons said as he walked Monday through the courthouse in Marksville, Louisiana, according to CNN affiliate KALB. “God did this for me today.”
Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles Riddle III said he dismissed any further charges against Simmons.
Riddle said in a statement entered into the court record that despite believing there was “sufficient evidence to find Vincent Simmons guilty,” he didn’t want the victims “to undergo the trauma of another trial” or be victimized again.
Riddle said he will not appeal the judge’s decision and asked to no longer prosecute Simmons.
“Just in case anyone has any doubt, no this is not a declaration of innocence at all,” he said. “We attempted to free him months ago because he has served enough time. Let this case be put to bed and the victims free from suffering again.”
The women Simmons was accused of raping — twins Karen and Sharon Sanders — said Monday that 44 years is enough.
“We’re tired. We want it behind us,” one of the sisters said, according to KALB. “He went in guilty, he’s still guilty and he’ll die guilty.”
Neither of the sisters, who are White, identified Simmons by name as the suspect to the police, but they said his full name at trial and described Simmons to the jury as their rapist.
Simmons’ attorneys and supporters told CNN last year that he was at a bar on May 9, 1977 around 9 p.m. getting in a fight and was not on the other side of Avoyelles Parish kidnapping three White people and attempting to rape two of them.
On July 28, 1977, Judge Earl Edwards sentenced Simmons, who was 25 at the time, to the maximum term for each charge — 50 years in prison for each twin — to be served consecutively.
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CNN’s Christina Carrega contributed to this report.