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
- Biden Accuser Accused of Inflating Credentials to Qualify as Expert Witness, Calling Convictions into Question, by Derek Gilna
- COVID-19 Creates Opportunity for Big Brother in the Sky, by Michael Fortino, Ph.D
- 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
- 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
- California Supreme Court Announces Sentencing Law Changes Apply Until Revocation Sentence Becomes Final, by Anthony Accurso
- Report: Cops Ill-Equipped to Handle Mental Illness Crisis in Hospitals, by Edward Lyon
- Fifth Circuit Clarifies How ‘Pronouncement Requirement’ Applies to Supervision Conditions, by Douglas Ankney
- Plenty of Practice Prevents Poor Police Performance, by Edward Lyon
- 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
- Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Expired Vehicle Registration Isn’t ‘Breach of the Peace’ Justifying Traffic Stop, 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
- Report: Risk Assessment Tools not Effective, Especially When not Used, by Kevin Bliss
- Florida Supreme Court Abandons Circumstantial Evidence Review Standard, by David Reutter
- Sixth Circuit: District Court’s Refusal to Reduce Crack Sentence Under First Step Act Requires Justification, by Dale Chappell
- 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:
- U.S. District Court Says Rhode Island Department of Corrections Violated “Morris Rules”, Aug. 1, 2020
- San Quentin Had Zero COVID-19 Cases Until California Officials Sent Infected Prisoners, Triggered Wildfire, Aug. 1, 2020
- Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign Files Suit Seeking to Sever University’s Financial Ties With Prison Industrial Complex, Aug. 1, 2020
- Tenth Circuit: Deputy ‘Trying to Help’ Doesn’t Make Search Permissible Under Community Caretaking Exception to Warrant Requirement, July 15, 2020
- Report Finds NYPD Officers Accidentally Deploy Tasers 25% of the Time, July 15, 2020
- California Supreme Court: § 459.5(b) Prohibits Charging Shoplifting and Theft for Same Property, July 15, 2020
- Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court: GPS Monitoring Unreasonable When It Doesn’t Further Any Governmental Interest, July 15, 2020
- Seventh Circuit Reverses Denial of Motion to Suppress Because Police Lacked Reasonable Suspicion to Frisk, July 15, 2020
- Colorado Supreme Court: Warrant Allowing General Search of Cellphone Unconstitutional Violation of Particularity Requirement, July 15, 2020
- Kansas Supreme Court: District Court Failed to Apprise Defendant of Right to Jury Trial, July 15, 2020
More from these topics:
- Fourth Circuit: Erroneous Career Offender Sentence Correctable in First Step Act Resentencing, July 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Sentencing Goals/Purposes/Practices.
- Fourth Circuit Expands Savings Clause of § 2255(e) to Include Later Retroactivity of New Rule, June 15, 2020. Habeas Corpus, U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Mandatory Minimum Sentence.
- Sixth Circuit: Courts May Consider Good Prison Conduct in Sentence Reduction Under First Step Act, June 15, 2020. Good Time, U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
- First Circuit: Sentence Imposed Under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(c) Is ‘Covered Offense’ Under § 404 of First Step Act, June 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Pending Appeal/Sentencing, Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.
- Fifth Circuit Clarifies How ‘Pronouncement Requirement’ Applies to Supervision Conditions, June 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Supervised Release - Conditions of.
- Fifth Circuit: Defendant Lacked Culpability in Attempting to Export Ammunition by Merely Purchasing It, May 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
- Federal District Court Finds ‘Confusion’ Over Law in State Court Excused Late Filing of § 2255 Motion, May 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Miscalculation of the Guidelines Sentencing Range.
- Changing Perception, Changing The Law, April 15, 2020. Sentencing, U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
- Ninth Circuit Opens Door for Savings Clause Relief, Recognizes ‘Actual Innocence’ for Mandatory Career Offender Sentences, April 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
- SCOTUS: Advocating for Shorter Sentence Sufficient to Preserve Claim that Sentence Imposed Greater Than Necessary to Comply With 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), April 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.