Army Veteran Serving Life Without Parole for Taking $9
by Douglas Ankney
Willie Simmons became addicted to drugs while in the Army and stationed abroad. In 1982, he was in Alabama and “in need of a quick fix.”
Simmons wrestled a man to the ground and took his wallet that contained nine dollars. Police arrested him a few blocks away. Simmons was charged with robbery. His trial lasted 25 minutes, and his court-appointed attorney called no witnesses. No plea deal was offered.
Because Simmons had three prior convictions — all nonviolent felonies — he was sentenced to life without parole under Alabama’s Habitual Offender Law. He was 25 years old.
Today he is studying for his GED at Holman, one of the most violent prisons in the U.S. There had been drugs all around him, but he still tries “to stay away from the wild bunch,” Beth Shelburne tweeted. Simmons got sober in prison 18 years ago.
“I just talked to God about it,” he said. Simmons’ sister died in 2005, and he hasn’t had a visitor since. “In a place like this, it can feel like you’re standing all alone,” he told WBRC-TV News, Birmingham. “Sometimes I feel like I’m lost in outer space.”
More from this issue:
- A Nation on the Brink, by Christopher Zoukis
- Office of Homeland Security Circumventing Warrant Requirement by Buying Cellphone Location Data from Marketing Firm, by Anthony Accurso
- From the Editor, by Richard Resch
- Using Location Surveillance to Fight COVID-19 May Chill Free Speech and Association, by David Reutter
- This Is Not a Revolution. It’s a Blueprint for Locking Down the Nation, by John W. Whitehead
- Fourth Circuit Expands Savings Clause of § 2255(e) to Include Later Retroactivity of New Rule, by Dale Chappell
- Seventh Circuit: Defendant’s Statement Given to Pretrial Services Can’t Be Admitted to Impeach Witness at Trial, by Douglas Ankney
- California Court of Appeal Explains Procedural Requirements for Vacating Felony-Murder Conviction Via Section 1170.95 Petition, by Douglas Ankney
- Police Violence Detrimental to Public Health, by Douglas Ankney
- Congressmen File Amicus Brief Stressing Congressional Intent That First Step Act’s New Drug Laws Apply at Resentencing, by Dale Chappell
- Indiana Supreme Court: Removal of Police’s GPS Tracker on Suspect’s Vehicle Not Probable Cause of Theft, Suppression of Evidence, by Anthony Accurso
- New Hampshire Supreme Court: Police Violated Miranda in Obtaining First Statement, and State Failed to Prove Second Statement Was Voluntary, by Douglas Ankney
- 5-Year Study Shows Police Stop Black Drivers Less Often at Night When ‘Veil of Darkness’ Obscures Race, by Douglas Ankney
- Declassified Court Ruling Details FBI Abuses of Mass Surveillance Data, by Anthony Accurso
- Second Circuit: Three Important Rulings Under First Step Act, by Dale Chappell
- Marijuana Possession in Virginia Remains Illegal But Is Decriminalized, by Douglas Ankney
- Eleventh Circuit Holds Hobbs Act Robbery Doesn’t Trigger Career Offender Enhancement, by Dale Chappell
- COVID-19 Creates Opportunity for Big Brother in the Sky, by Michael Fortino, Ph.D
- Biden Accuser Accused of Inflating Credentials to Qualify as Expert Witness, Calling Convictions into Question, by Derek Gilna
- Perjurous New York City Cop Sentenced to a Single Day in Jail, by Edward Lyon
- Nebraska Supreme Court: Multiple Theft Charges for Stealing Items Belonging to Several People at Same Time and Place Violates Double Jeopardy, by Dale Chappell
- Fourth Circuit: Standalone Rehaif Error Requires Automatic Vacatur of Guilty Plea, by David Reutter
- Is the Death Penalty Slowly Dying Across the Nation?, by Chad Marks
- Joint State-Federal Task Forces Practice Rogue Justice Under Protection of Qualified Immunity, by Michael Fortino, Ph.D
- Colorado Supreme Court: Requiring Defense to Disclose Exhibits to Prosecution Before Trial Violates Due Process Rights, by Dale Chappell
- Iowa Supreme Court Orders Dismissal of Charges that State Brought in Breach of Plea Agreement, by Douglas Ankney
- Justice Office Awards $145 Million in Forensic Science Grants, by Anthony Accurso
- Carpenter Slowly Remaking Fourth Amendment Case Law, by Anthony Accurso
- California Federal Court Rejects Plea Agreement’s Waiver of Compassionate Release Provision, by David Reutter
- Aggressive NYPD Police Tactics Spreading COVID-19, by Michael Fortino, Ph.D
- COVID-19 Causing Some Pretrial Detainees to Spend More Time in Jail, by Douglas Ankney
- California Supreme Court Announces Sentencing Law Changes Apply Until Revocation Sentence Becomes Final, by Anthony Accurso
- NY Court of Appeals: Right to Review Suppression Decision When Decision Relates Solely to a Count Satisfied by Plea but Isn’t Count to Which Defendant Pled, by Douglas Ankney
- Report: Cops Ill-Equipped to Handle Mental Illness Crisis in Hospitals, by Edward Lyon
- Plenty of Practice Prevents Poor Police Performance, by Edward Lyon
- Fifth Circuit Clarifies How ‘Pronouncement Requirement’ Applies to Supervision Conditions, by Douglas Ankney
- First Circuit: Sentence Imposed Under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(c) Is ‘Covered Offense’ Under § 404 of First Step Act, by Douglas Ankney
- Minnesota Supreme Court: Hotel Guests Have Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in Registry Information, by Douglas Ankney
- Sixth Circuit: Courts May Consider Good Prison Conduct in Sentence Reduction Under First Step Act, by Dale Chappell
- DNA Database of NYC’s Chief Medical Examiner Plagued with Errors, by Douglas Ankney
- South Carolina Supreme Court Rejects U.S. Supreme Court’s Shifting of Burden to Defendant to Prove Absence of Exigent Circumstances in DUI Cases, by Douglas Ankney
- Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Expired Vehicle Registration Isn’t ‘Breach of the Peace’ Justifying Traffic Stop, by Douglas Ankney
- Report: Risk Assessment Tools not Effective, Especially When not Used, by Kevin Bliss
- Sixth Circuit: District Court’s Refusal to Reduce Crack Sentence Under First Step Act Requires Justification, by Dale Chappell
- Florida Supreme Court Abandons Circumstantial Evidence Review Standard, by David Reutter
- Courts Oppose Prosecutors’ Attempts to Right Past Wrongs, by Douglas Ankney
- No Trust Between Police and Communities They Patrol, by Kevin Bliss
- COVID-19 May Ring in a New Era of High-Tech Private Policing, by Michael Fortino, Ph.D
- North Carolina Supreme Court: Giving Finger to Police Not Disorderly Conduct Justifying Traffic Stop, by Dale Chappell
- New Technique Separates Mixed DNA Evidence to Tell Suspects from Victims, by Dale Chappell
- Feds Ramp up Purchase of Riot Gear in Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic, by Douglas Ankney
- Army Veteran Serving Life Without Parole for Taking $9, by Douglas Ankney
- Sixth Circuit Vacates Firearms Possession Conviction; Government Showed Jury Unauthenticated Prejudicial Facebook Video Not Admitted as Evidence, by Matthew Clarke
- News in Brief
More from Douglas Ankney:
- Police Unions: Obstacles to Criminal Justice Reform and Police Accountability, Oct. 15, 2020
- Pennsylvania Supreme Court Announces Reckless Prosecutorial Misconduct Constitutes Overreaching Sufficient to Trigger Double Jeopardy Protections, Oct. 15, 2020
- Indiana Supreme Court Announces New Analytical Framework for Review of Substantive Double Jeopardy, Overruling Richardson, Oct. 15, 2020
- Fifth Circuit Reverses Conviction Based on Prejudicial Prosecutorial Misconduct, Oct. 15, 2020
- California Court of Appeal: ‘Violent Victim Rule’ Doesn’t Require Defendant to Have Had Knowledge of Victim’s Propensity for Violence, Oct. 15, 2020
- Ninth Circuit: Mere Passage of Time Doesn’t Attenuate Evidence From Initial Constitutional Violation, Oct. 15, 2020
- N.J. Supreme Court Announces Defendant Has Right to Question Cooperating Witness About Plea Deal and Possible Sentence Exposure Even When Witness Faced Same Exposure as Defendant, Oct. 15, 2020
- Missouri Supreme Court: Circuit Court Erred in Excluding Expert Witness Testimony Regarding Accuracy of Eyewitness Identification, Oct. 15, 2020
- California Supreme Court Reverses Murder Conviction and Death Sentence Because Police Failed To Honor Defendant’s Request for Counsel, Oct. 15, 2020
- Door Bells and Funeral Bells, Oct. 15, 2020
More from these topics:
- Fourth Circuit Announces Discretionary Conditions of Supervision Must Be Orally Pronounced at Sentencing, Oct. 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Sentencing Hearing.
- Powerful New Tool Reveals Federal Sentencing Problems, Oct. 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, EP2P Software.
- First Circuit: Dangerousness of Machine Guns Not Justification for Above-Guidelines Sentence, Oct. 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Sentence Enhancements/Departures.
- Eleventh Circuit: Time Served Adjustment Is Mandatory Under Sentencing Guidelines Even After Booker, Oct. 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Sentences - Adjustments and Departures.
- Fed Position on Pot Pushing Vets to Black Market, Oct. 15, 2020. Veterans, Marijuana Laws/Issues.
- Fifth Circuit Upholds Summary Dismissal of Texas Prisoner’s Challenge to Deduction of Medical Co-Pay From Account Receiving VA Payments, Oct. 4, 2020. Trust Accounts, Veterans.
- The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994: 25 Years Later, Where Do We Stand?, Oct. 1, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Crimes of Violence/Violent Felony.
- New Study Shows “Tough on Crime” Generation Spent More Time in Prison Despite Falling Crime Rate, Oct. 1, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Crack v. Powdered Cocaine.
- Indiana Supreme Court: Must Be Immediate Causal Connection Between Confrontation and Other Crime by Defendant to Negate Self-Defense, Sept. 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Degree of connection to charged crimes.
- Second Circuit: District Court’s Failure to Offer Explanation for Its Sentence Constitutes Plain Error, Sept. 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Failure to Instruct on Materiality as an Element of Crime.