Man has spent 38 years serving life sentence for stealing $9

Journalist Beth Shelburne's tweet about Willie Simmons became viral after the controversy surrounding Alabama's Habitual Offender Law. 

Willie Simmons has served 38 years in prison and is set to do more for a life sentence without eligibility for parole. This is because he committed robbery in 1982 and stole a man's wallet with $9 inside of it. He was 25. 

Simmons had three prior, nonviolent convictions under his belt and was then prosecuted under Alabama's habitual offender law with the Court deciding life imprisonment. The man told Shelburne that he committed his crime under the influence of drugs and was looking for his next fix. He then narrated that he wrestled a man to the ground and stole the man's wallet, which had $9 inside of it. Just a few blocks away, he was arrested by the police.


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He recounted his trial which he told only lasted 25 minutes. His appointed attorney did not call witnesses and there was no plea deal. He was only 25 when the state decided he should die in prison, saying they're keeping him off of the streets for good. 

Simmons is now 62 and is still held at the Holman Correctional Facility in Escambia County, Alabama. He does not have visitors since 2005 as his sister passed away that year. Now, he spends his time studying for his GED and in his words, trying to "stay away from the wild bunch" as he describes the facility as one of the "most violent prisons in the country." 

He never denied his crimes. However, he's tried to appeal his case repeatedly over the year, all without a lawyer. All his appeals were denied. 

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Though he'd spend 38 years in prison, Simmons still hopes he'd be free one day, telling Shelburne "I ain't giving up. My hope is to get out of here, settle down with a woman and do God's will. I'd like to tell people about how bad drugs are." 

The law has been criticized for being too harsh. In 2014, Lawmakers have removed the last avenue of appeal for Mr. Simmons and other people convicted under that law. 

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