In March 1991, police in Pasadena, California arrested 24-year-old Lennie Darrold Sims on charges of kidnapping a woman and attempting to force her to withdraw money from an automated teller machine.
Police put Sims’ picture in photographic lineups and witnesses linked him to three other holdups that occurred in Pasadena in February 1991.
In March 1992, Sims went on trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court on four charges of armed robbery in connection with the holdup of a McDonald’s restaurant drive-up window, a Tastee Freeze store, and two employees at a clothing store—all in Pasadena.
Before the trial began, Sims made a motion to represent himself. He believed his public defender had not interviewed witnesses or adequately prepared for the case, in part, Sims said, because the lawyer was handling so many cases. The judge hearing the case interpreted Sims’s motion as an attempt to get a different lawyer and denied the motion.
A customer who had been at McDonald’s during the robbery and the clerk at the drive-up window identified Sims as the man who robbed the clerk of $25 while holding a gun. The witnesses in the other robberies were unable to make a positive identification.
Sims was convicted of the McDonald’s robbery and acquitted of the other charges. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
In January 1994, the California Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, ruling that the trial judge had applied the wrong law in denying Sims’ motion to defend himself. The Court sent the case back for a new trial. By that time, Sims had been convicted in the kidnapping and robbery case and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
He went on trial a second time in the spring of 1994, represented by attorney Patricia Andreoni, the lawyer who had handled his appeal.
Andreoni, in preparing for trial, discovered that the manager of the McDonald’s had also witnessed the robbery, but had never been interviewed by police or Sims’ defense attorney at his first trial.
Andreoni called the manager as a witness and he testified that Sims was not the robber.
In March 1994, Sims was acquitted by the jury. He remained in prison on the kidnapping and robbery conviction.
– Maurice Possley