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.”
As a digital subscriber to Criminal Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login
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:
- Family of San Quentin Prisoner Who Died of COVID-19 Due to “Horribly Botched Transfer” Files Lawsuit, May 1, 2021
- Report: Border Patrol Misappropriated Funds and Failed to Provide Proper Medical Care to Accurately Report Migrant Deaths, May 1, 2021
- Seventh Circuit Vacates Sentence Where District Court Improperly Imposed Leadership Enhancement, April 15, 2021
- Seventh Circuit Exercises Supervisory Powers in Reversing District Court’s Judgment Revoking Supervised Release, April 15, 2021
- Iowa Supreme Court Announces Brady Standard Applies to Motion for New Trial Based on Withheld Exculpatory Medical Records, April 15, 2021
- Michigan State Police Reverse on Use of Messaging App That Can Evade FOIA Requests, April 15, 2021
- Wyoming Supreme Court: District Court Abused Discretion by Granting State’s Dismissal of Charges Without Prejudice and Refiling to Gain Tactical Advantage, Remands for Dismissal With Prejudice, April 15, 2021
- New Jersey Appellate Court Holds Defendant Entitled to Source Code of Novel Probabilistic Genotyping Software Upon Showing of Particularized Need, April 15, 2021
- California Court of Appeal: Prisoners Are Not Required to Serve ‘Thompson Terms’ After Grant of Parole Under Elderly Parole Program, April 15, 2021
- New York Court of Appeals Rejects Federal Jurisprudence Allowing Searches of Vehicles Based on Warrants Authorizing Searches of ‘Premises’, April 15, 2021
More from these topics:
- The Importance of Establishing Veterans Benefits While in Prison, May 1, 2021. Veterans, Pension/Social Security/Disability Benefits.
- Massachusetts Supreme Court Announces ‘Habitual Offender’ Statute Allows for Sentence of Probation Only, March 15, 2021. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Sentencing Goals/Purposes/Practices, Sentence of Probation.
- Hundreds Serving Life Due to Less Than Unanimous Jury Verdicts, March 15, 2021. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Jury Determinations.
- Ohio Supreme Court: Jury Must Find Use of Force, Not Sentencing Court, for Mandatory Minimum Sentences, Feb. 15, 2021. Jury Instructions, U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Wrongful Use of Force.
- Second Circuit Clarifies What Constitutes ‘Possession of a Dangerous Weapon’ and ‘Physical Restraint’ Under the Guidelines, Feb. 15, 2021. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Dangerous Weapons, Physical Injury/Restraint.
- Fifth Circuit Vacates Sentence Eight Times Higher Than Guidelines Range That Was Imposed Without Explanation, Jan. 15, 2021. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
- Eighth Circuit Announces ‘Use of Minor’ Enhancement Inapplicable for Merely Buying Firearm From Minor, Jan. 15, 2021. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Minimal/Minor Participation.
- Illinois Supreme Court Announces Predicate Offenses of Home Invasion Statute are Lesser-Included Offenses of Home Invasion Statute, Jan. 15, 2021. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Lesser Harms, Predicate Acts/Offenses.
- Tennessee Juvenile Murderer’s Sentence Commuted, Jan. 1, 2021. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Resentencing, Juvenile Offenses/Offenders.
- Eleventh Circuit Holds RICO Conspiracy Doesn’t Qualify as Crime of Violence for § 924(c) Purposes and Defendant’s 120-Year Sentence Was Procedurally Unreasonable, Dec. 15, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, RICO, Solicitation to Commit a Crime of Violence.