On March 23, 1995, 27-year-old Anthony Hogan, a marijuana dealer and part-time ice cream truck driver, was found beaten to death and set on fire in his home in Lancaster, California. His girlfriend, 22-year-old Tresheva Sherouse, was also severely beaten, but survived, emerging from a coma after nearly a month.
About six weeks after the incident, a 13-year-old boy who lived in the neighborhood told police that he was in a car with his mother on the day of the crime and as they drove by Hogan’s house, a white car pulled out rapidly, almost striking the car driven by the boy’s mother. The boy said he recognized one of the four occupants of the car as 35-year-old Tommy Simmons III, who lived down the block.
Based on the boy’s description, police concluded the men were driving in Hogan’s car, which had been found abandoned in Pico Rivera, California, after the crime.
More than a year later, Tommy Simmons III was charged with murder, attempted murder and robbery. Also charged were Simmons’s brother, Kevin Simmons; his half-brother, Robert Adams; and Archie Dixon. Police said the four men took marijuana from Hogan’s home, but overlooked about $600 in cash. When Dixon was arrested, police found a bag of marijuana in his car that had Hogan’s fingerprints on it.
All four men went on trial in November 1997. Sherouse identified Tommy Simmons, Kevin Simmons and Dixon as three of her attackers, although she admitted her memory was somewhat hazy since she had been tied up and beaten unconscious and then left for dead.
The jury convicted Kevin Simmons, Dixon and Adams of murder, attempted murder and robbery. Tommy Simmons was acquitted of the attempted murder of Sherouse. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the murder and robbery charges against Tommy Simmons, voting 10-2 for acquittal, so a mistrial was declared.
Tommy Simmons went on trial a second time for the murder and robbery charges in Los Angeles County Superior Court in November 1998. One of the prosecution witnesses was the teenager who said he saw Simmons with the three other men in Hogan’s car speeding away from Hogan’s home on the day of the crime.
Simmons’s son testified that his uncle, Kevin Simmons, told him that they did a “jack move” for Tommy Simmons and that they had beaten the “bud man” with dumbbells and “lit Hogan’s ass on fire.”
On cross-examination, Simmons’s attorney suggested that Simmons’s son testified falsely because he wanted to obtain a $15,000 reward. The boy denied the accusation.
A jury convicted Tommy Simmons of murder and robbery on November 12, 1998. He was sentenced to life in prison.
After his conviction, Simmons filed a motion for a new trial, claiming that his trial attorney did not provide an adequate legal defense because he failed to introduce receipts from two credit card purchases—for gasoline and donuts—that Simmons said he made in Palmdale, California, several miles from Hogan’s home at the time of the crime.
At a hearing on the motion, Simmons’s trial lawyer said he did not introduce the records because there was no time stamp on the receipts and so there was no way to show when the purchases were made.
After his conviction was upheld on appeal, Simmons received a copy of the credit card records and realized that the time of the purchases were in fact contained in the records that his trial lawyer had at the time of the trial.
Simmons then filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus in 2001 and a series of hearings were held in 2001 and 2002. Simmons’s new lawyer presented evidence that the credit card bills contained numerical information that identified the times of the transactions—information that Simmons’s trial lawyer did not investigate. The records showed the purchases were made at 10:05 a.m. and at 10:06 a.m. at a gas station in Palmdale—approximately 11 to 14 minutes away from Hogan’s home by car.
According to testimony at trial, Hogan called a friend the morning of the crime and asked him to bring some toilet paper to Hogan’s home. The friend testified that he knocked on the door at 10 a.m., but a man he did not know answered the door and told him to come back later. Hogan’s friend said that he came back about 30 minutes later and found Hogan’s body and the unconscious Sherouse in the house. The first call to 911 was made at 10:32 a.m.
At the hearing, Simmons testified that after his wife left for work, she called him and said her car was making noise, so he drove to meet her, stopping in Palmdale to buy gasoline, donuts and milk. He said he met his wife at around 11 a.m., they had lunch and then traded cars. He said he did not testify at his trial because he had prior drug convictions which the prosecution would have been able to question him about if he testified. He said he knew Hogan and had purchased marijuana from Hogan a day or two before Hogan was killed. He denied any involvement in the crime.
In March 2003, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Curtis Rappe granted the habeas petition, vacated Simmons’s conviction and ordered a new trial.
Simmons was released on bond on August 15, 2003 pending a retrial. On December 5, 2003, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges.
Simmons later sought compensation from the state of California, but his claim was denied. He also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, but the case was dismissed.
– Maurice Possley