District Court Judge Brenda Branch today read Simms, 25, of Enfield, the first-degree murder charges lodged against him in the shooting deaths of James and Janice Harris and James and Peggy Whitley.
The four were shot through a glass door while they sat playing cards at the Harris family’s dining room table. All the victims died at the table after they were shot multiple times.
She explained to Simms if found guilty he could be sentenced to life or receive the death penalty. She also told him, “You will not have a bond.”
Simms asked Branch, “Who do I talk to about a speedy trial?”
Branch told him to discuss that with his attorneys.
The man’s first appearance since being charged Thursday evening was held after Branch made a ruling about TV news crews being allowed to use cell phones to record the brief proceeding. rrspin.com had made an earlier request to be allowed to bring in a digital camera, which was approved by Branch and the district attorney’s office.
Branch ruled against allowing cell phones being used to record the proceedings but did allow TV cameras.
Two members of the Harris family, who had no immediate comment following the first appearance, were in the courtroom.
As Simms prepared to leave the courtroom, Branch said, “Good luck to you sir.”
District Attorney Valerie Asbell would only say afterward, “It’s an ongoing investigation and I’m bound by ethical obligations to not discuss the case further.”
Simms was served the warrants for the four murders at the detention center in Halifax where he was in custody on $500,000 bond for skipping a June court date for the 2015 murder of Jarshamel Cambridge in Enfield.
He was taken into custody for failure to appear in the Cambridge case in September, nearly a month after the Glenview murders.
However, evidence presented in the plea hearings of Dexter Taylor and and Tony Hill show none of the other co-defendants in that case, including Simms, had weapons or got out of the car.
That evidence showed Taylor was identified as the shooter. He was convicted of the June 22, 2015, manslaughter in August. He was sentenced to six years and two months, a concurrent sentence to a charge of criminal street gang activity.
Since his admission date on August 7, he has had two infractions — one for gang involvement and another for assaulting a person with a weapon, according to state Department of Public Safety records.
Tony Hill received a suspended sentence of 32 months probation after he pled to discharging a firearm into an enclosure to incite fear in the Cambridge case.
Other defendants in the Cambridge case have pending court dates.