Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Glynn Simmons

Other Oklahoma exonerations
Shortly before 9:30 p.m. on December 30, 1974, two armed men entered the Edmond Liquor Store in Edmond, Oklahoma. As 30-year-old Carolyn Sue Rogers, a store clerk, picked up the telephone, one of the robbers shot her in the head. The other robber ordered another store clerk, Norma Hankins, to open the cash register. The robber removed the money from the register.

Hankins bent down to pick up some money which had fallen to the floor. As she was bent over, she heard another shot. By the time Hankins rose up, the men were gone. Eighteen-year-old Belinda Brown, who had entered planning to use a fake ID to buy a bottle of tequila, had blood on her hand. She had been shot in the head. Brown survived. Rogers did not. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Four days after the robbery, Brown was interviewed by police. She didn’t remember much.

Asked if she could remember given more time, she replied, “No, because I thought real hard…If I think everything exactly the way I remember it and so if I waited much longer, it would get all jumbled up in my mind and it wouldn’t be the same.”

Hankins said she was unable to identify anyone because her eyes were focused on the guns the robbers carried.

During the investigation of the liquor store murder, police were also investigating a series of other similar robberies and a murder. On February 4, 1975, the bodies of two men were found in a rural area northeast of Oklahoma City. On February 5, Leonard Patterson was arrested, and he ultimately confessed to the murders of the two men. Patterson’s brother, Delbert, admitted to police he was with Leonard during the murders, but did not take part.

Police learned that on January 19, 1975, the Pattersons had been at a party at the home of Dorothy Norris in Oklahoma City. Norris was the aunt of 22-year-old Glynn Simmons who had moved there from his home in Harvey, Louisiana to take a job.

Because the Pattersons had been at the party, the police began bringing in everyone else they could find who had been at the party and putting them in lineups, including Simmons.

Brown went on to view eight separate live lineups.

On February 8, 1975, following the lineups, police arrested Simmons and 21-year-old Don Roberts, who had also been at the party. They were charged with capital murder for the Edmond Liquor Store shooting.

In June 1975, they both went to trial in Oklahoma County District Court. A medical examiner testified that Rogers had died of a gunshot wound to the head. The prosecution’s evidence relied upon the testimony of Brown, who told the jury that she had identified Simmons and Roberts in lineups on February 7 and February 8 and at a preliminary hearing. She again identified them at the trial.

She also testified that she did not identify anyone else besides Simmons and Roberts.

Roberts’s sister, Doris Jean Frazier, testified that on December 30, 1974, Roberts came to her home in Dallas at 10:00 a.m. He spent the day there and did not leave until 8:00 o'clock that evening. Roberts testified that in December 1974, he had been employed by a Thrift Store organization in Dallas. He said that on the morning of December 30, he went to his sister's house to borrow money to purchase gas for his automobile. He remained there until approximately 7:30 p.m. He testified that he had not been acquainted with Simmons until they met for the first time on January 19, 1975, when they met at the party at his brother-in-law's home.

Simmons testified that on December 30, 1974, he was in Harvey, Louisiana. He said he spent the day playing pool at the Agnus Pool Hall and Joe's Lounge with friends. He had never been to Oklahoma prior to January 5, 1975, when he came to stay with his aunt.

Ronald Murphy testified for the defense that in January 1975, he appeared in a lineup in relation to the murder at the Edmond Liquor Store. He was identified by a witness, but was released after he was able to prove he was at work at the time of the crime.

Dorothy Norris testified that she saw Simmons in Harvey, Louisiana, on the afternoon of December 30, 1974, and that she also saw him the following morning.

Robert Antoine testified that he saw Simmons on the evening of December 30, 1974, at the Agnus Pool Hall in Harvey. He specifically remembered the date because they had a party the following evening on New Year’s Eve.

Richard Wilson testified that he was with Simmons on the afternoon and evening of December 30, 1974, playing pool in Harvey, Louisiana. He was also with Simmons the following day at a football game.

John Bradley testified that he saw Simmons at Joe's in Harvey at about 11 p.m. on December 30 and that Simmons was still there in the early morning hours of December 31.

In rebuttal, the prosecution called two police officers who said Murphy was never identified in any lineup.

On June 5, 1975, Simmons and Roberts were convicted of capital murder. In July 1975, they were both sentenced to death. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional because of its unequal application. States such as Oklahoma had moved quickly to enact new death penalty laws that legislators believed would pass legal muster.

By the time the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals decided the appeal of Simmons’s and Roberts’s case in 1977, the Oklahoma Supreme Court had decided in 1976 that all death penalty sentences prior to July 24, 1976 should be commuted to life in prison without parole. And so both their sentences were modified, and they were removed from death row.

In 1995, Robert Mildfelt, the trial prosecutor, wrote a letter to Simmons saying that the only witness [Brown] who identified him had wanted to think about the identification “overnight.”

Over the years, on two occasions, Mildfelt wrote letters to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board supporting Simmons in his bid to be released on parole, but parole had been repeatedly denied.

In a letter written in March 1995, Mildfelt noted that Brown had described Simmons as more than six feet tall and over 200 pounds, “a physical description greatly different from Mr. Simmons [sic] stature at the time. The jury on that day at that time found him guilty, however, quite candidly, it was one of the few cases I have been involved in that the verdict a week later could easily have been different.”

Simmons kept fighting, filing a motion for post-conviction relief that was denied in 1997. Simmons filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus in 1997. That was denied in 1998.

By that time, Simmons had hired a private investigator, Charles Michael Nobles, who obtained records from the city of Edmond. The records included a report of the February 7 and February 8 lineups. This report, which had never been disclosed to the defense, said that Brown had identified Delbert Patterson and “subject#__.” The report also mentioned Brown considering her identifications overnight and calling back the following day to say she was more positive in her identifications.

This report was accompanied by a document titled “Special Showup Report” dated February 8, 1975. This report said Brown identified Simmons [#2 position] and Roberts [#4 position].

In January 2023, Simmons’s attorneys, Joseph Norwood and John Coyle, filed an amended application for post-conviction relief. The motion cited the failure of the prosecution to disclose the report and noted that in fact Brown had identified four other individuals along the way during the eight lineup procedures.

“Obviously, these major discrepancies cannot be resolved in a way that would lend any credibility to Brown’s identification of Simmons and Roberts,” the motion said. “If anything, these discrepancies show that Brown NEVER identified Simmons and Roberts in a lineup.”

The motion noted that in addition to the four witnesses who testified at the trial that Simmons was in Harvey, there were two other witnesses present who were to testify similarly. They did not after Simmons’s defense lawyer, Henry W. Floyd, denied their testimony as cumulative.

The petition included affidavits from five more people who said that they were in Harvey and saw Simmons there at the time of the crime.

The petition included a report from Dr. Curt Carlson, a professor of psychology and eyewitness identification expert from Texas A & M University-Commerce. Dr. Carlson declared, “My review of the testimony and other case documents has led me to conclude that there is no eyewitness evidence that is probative of the defendant’s guilt. Rather, there is evidence indicating the defendant’s innocence.”

Dr. Carlson cited several factors that undermined Brown’s identifications, including the presence of weapons, stress, and inconsistent descriptions. Dr. Carlson noted that Brown said at the preliminary hearing that Simmons had a beard. But at the trial, she said he had no facial hair. “In short, her memory could clearly not be trusted, as it lacked in these basic characteristics,” he concluded. Dr. Carlson also noted that Brown had suffered a traumatic brain injury and wore corrective lenses, the prescription of which had been increased after viewing the lineups, indicating her eyesight had been worse at the time.

Among the people erroneously selected by Brown during the many lineups was Frederick Lee Brooks. Brown picked him out of a photographic lineup containing 21 photographs on January 22, 1975. Brooks was put in a four-person live lineup the next day, and Brown did not identify him. The police administered a polygraph on Brooks, searched his apartment, and concluded he was not involved.

The motion said that the Patterson brothers were the likely perpetrators of the liquor store shooting. The motion noted that the brothers used a .22-caliber weapon and that a .22-caliber weapon was used in the liquor store shooting.

Lloyd, Simmons’s trial defense lawyer, had been disbarred several years after the trial for neglecting his clients. The motion noted that at least three times, Floyd got Simmons’s name wrong in front of the jury. Floyd did not ask for a report on the lineups in which Brown was said to have identified Simmons and Roberts. And, although he presented some alibi witnesses, there were two he chose not to call.

In March 2023, a hearing was ordered on the motion. In April 2023, Oklahoma County District Attorney Vicki Behenna, who had been the head of the Oklahoma Innocence Project before being elected as district attorney in 2022, filed a motion seeking to vacate Simmons’s conviction.

On July 20, 2023, following an evidentiary hearing, District Court Judge Amy Palumbo vacated Simmons’s conviction and ordered a new trial. On July 22, 2023, Simmons was released on bond, having spent 48 years, one month and 18 days in prison since the date of his conviction.

On September 11, 2023, Behenna announced that the office would not seek to retry Simmons and dismissed the case. She said she had agreed that Simmons was entitled to a new trial. “There was a police report, a significant police report, that was not turned over," she said.

But once the new trial was granted, the prospect of going forward with a second trial was rejected. Surviving victims were not available or had died, as had detectives involved in the case. Assistant District Attorney Brant Elmore said, “We just don’t have the evidence to move forward.”

On September 19, 2023, Judge Palumbo granted a motion filed by Behenna to dismiss the case.

“Validation and vindication has finally happened,” said the 70-year-old Simmons. “It’s a lesson in resilience and tenacity. When you know you’re innocent, stick with it and don’t ever stop. Don’t let nobody tell you it can’t happen, because it really can.”

Coyle told reporters, “There never really was any real evidence. Just being a Black kid in the wrong place at the wrong time. Oklahoma’s changed a lot since the time of the conviction, but in many ways it’s the same.”

Norwood added, “Glynn has had the prime of his earning life taken due to this wrongful conviction and needs some grace.”

At the time of his release, no known person had spent more time incarcerated before being exonerated than Simmons.

Roberts was released on parole in 2008. Norwood said the firm would next seek to vacate Roberts’s conviction.

In October 2023, Simmons filed a motion seeking a declaration of innocence to then seek compensation from the state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma County District Court Judge Amy Palumbo issued a declaration of "actual innocence" on December 19, 2023.

"This Court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the offense for which Mr. Simmons was convicted, sentenced and imprisoned in the case at hand, including any lesser included offenses, was not committed by Mr. Simmons," Palumbo said.

In January 2024, Simmons filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the cities of Edmond and Oklahoma City and police officers involved in his case.

In June 2024, Behanna rejected a request to overturn Roberts's conviction. Norwood said he intended to go to court to seek to vacate Roberts's conviction.

Also in June 2024, Simmons was awarded $175,000 in state compensation.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 10/1/2023
Last Updated: 7/1/2024
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1974
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No