A 62-year-old Alabama man has been in prison for the past 38 years for stealing $9. Willie Simmons was convicted of 1st-degree robbery and was sentenced to life without parole in 1982. The harsh sentencing was due to Simmons’s three prior convictions and Alabama’s Habitual Offender law.
A reporter from WBRC, Beth Shelburne shared Simmons’ story in a thread on Twitter after talking to him.Shelburne said Simmons, an Army veteran became addicted to drugs while deployed overseas and was 25-years-old when the state sentenced him to life in prison. Since 2005, he hasn’t had a visitor after his sister passed away. Now at 62-years-old Simmons has been incarcerated in Holman Correctional Facility in Escambia County, Alabama which is considered one of the “most violent prisons in the country.” Simmons has been studying for his GED, and trying to “stay away from the wild bunch.”
Simmons hasn’t denied the crime he committed that got him in prison for life.He admitted he was “high on drugs” when he wrestled a man to the floor and stole his wallet that contained $9, stating he was “trying to get a quick fix.”
Simmons remembered his trial only lasted about 25 minutes and his court-appointed lawyer didn’t call any witness to the stand.Also, the prosecutors didn’t offer a plea deal although his prior offenses were non-violent. “They kept saying we’ll do our best to keep you off the streets for good,” he said.
Over the years, he has filed for several appeals even without an attorney and those were all denied. He said, “In a place like this, it can feel like you’re standing all alone. I ain’t got nobody on the outside to call and talk to. Sometimes I feel like I’m lost in outer space.”
In 2014 Alabama lawmakers removed the last avenue of appeal for people serving life without parole under the habitual offender law. However, Simmons is hopeful his sentence could be reconsidered “Yes, I’ve been hoping and praying on it,” he said. “I ain’t giving up.”
Simmons still dreams someday he will be free and live a normal life. “My hope is to get out of here, settle down with a woman and do God’s will,” he said. “I’d like to tell people about how bad drugs are.”