Legal Network Update: Willie “Fire Plug” Simmons Denied Relief Again: Serving LWOP for $9.00 robbery

Sixty-two year old Mr. Willie J. Simmons, known by many as “Plug” in Alabama’s prison system, on December 4, 2019, was once again denied relief on his claim that his sentence of life without parole for a $9.00 robbery conviction in 1982, where no weapon was used and no physical injury was caused to the victim, violates the Eighth Amendment’s proscription against cruel and unusual punishment.* UPDATED January 4, 2020. This Order was issued to Mr. Simmons in error after a mix-up in the Clerk’s Office. Mr. Simmons had now served 37 consecutive years in prison for this conviction. Earlier this year, Mr. Alvin Kennard, another man sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) under Alabama’s habitual felony offender law for a $25.00 robbery, successfully challenged his LWOP sentence as being cruel and unusual punishment and was released from prison after serving 36 years. Alvin Kennard was also 22 when he was first imprisoned in 1983 – one year after Mr. Simmons.

Well-known jailhouse attorney Ak’Bar is proving pro bono (free) legal assistance to Mr. Simmons. Ak’bar is requesting capable legal assistance from attorneys, law schools and innocence projects, law students, paralegals, and criminal justice organizations in this matter. Ak’bar also stated that he is interested in amicus curae briefs being filed.

Religion or non-profit organizations interested in providing assistance in this matter are also welcomed.

You can also show you Support for #Justice for Plug by writing a short letter of support to Ms. Simmons’ sentencing judge asking him to declare that Mr. Simmons’ sentence of life without parole under the facts of his case violates the Eighth Amendment.

Your letter should be short and state something like the following:[Date]Dear Judge :

I / We are writing to you in support of Mr. Willie J. Simmons, who was sentenced by this court to Life Without Parole as a habitual offender for a 1983 robbery conviction involving $9.00 where no weapon was used and the victim did not sustain any injury. Mr. Simmons, now 62 years old, has already served 37 consecutive years for this conviction, having spent all but two years of his 20’s, and all of his 30’s, 40’s, 50’s in prison as a result.

Under current Alabama law and sentencing guidelines, Mr. Simmons would not be eligible for a sentence of life without parole. Instead, he would be facing a sentencing range of between 10 and 21 years under Alabama’s new sentencing guidelines. An appropriate sentence commiserate with proper punishment for the crime committed in this case has already been achieved . . . and exceeded. Furthermore, as exemplified by the the resentencing of Mr. Kennard to time served in light of the new sentencing guidelines and prevailing standards of decency, Mr. Simmons’ sentence violates state and federal constitutional law against cruel and usual punishment.

Please reconsider your previous order summarily denying Mr. Simmons relief and set this matter for a hearing where Mr. Simmons may be present and present evidence proving that his sentence of life without parole under the facts of his case constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.





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