In March/April: Claude Simmons, Exonerated Of Murder By UT Law Students

Another feature we’re proud of in this latest issue of The Alcalde is the story of Claude Simmons, a Dallas man who spent a dozen years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.

Simmons was finally freed last fall through the efforts of UT’s Actual Innocence Clinic. Law students at the clinic — which has existed since 2002 — investigated the case for several years.

Ultimately, the young attorneys were able to show that faulty eyewitness identification had put the wrong man in prison. It marked the clinic’s first exoneration.

Life isn’t easy after prison, though, as this story shows — even for someone who shouldn’t have been in there at all.

Simmons is trying first to rebuild relationships with his sons, whose high school graduations, proms, military ceremonies, and other milestones he missed. Jabraun and Jarrod were 16 and 13 when he went to prison; they’re 29 and 26 now.

He also is getting to know his two granddaughters, Taylor and Mia, who were born while he was locked up.

Meanwhile, with a 12-year gap in all his records, he’s finding the logistics of civilian life difficult. He can’t easily get a job — the exoneration hasn’t processed its way through to the highest levels of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals yet.

Without the case being finalized, he isn’t eligible yet for the compensation money the state promises to those who were wrongfully imprisoned. There’s no way to tell how soon that might happen.

For now, Simmons lives in his sister Sherie’s home, relying on her and a UT-Arlington student who became a friend and advocate to try to get the help he needs.

If the moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable, we think Simmons’ story says something powerful. Let us know what you think as well, with a comment or an e-mail to


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