A defendant pleaded guilty to burglary, possession of tools for the commission of a crime, and misdemeanor obstruction of a law enforcement officer. Fulton Superior Court convicted the defendant of these crimes, but during the trial, the court commented during the plea proceedings, which is a violation of superior court rules.
The Georgia Court of Appeals examined the case and found that the trial court did violate the rules. The State had just informed the trial court that it intended to pursue recidivist punishment, which prompted the court to tell the defendant that if he was convicted during trial and sentenced to 20 years, then he would “serve every day of that in prison.” The court meant the comment as explanation that the defendant would not be entitled to parole, but, regardless of the court’s intent, the statement could demonstrate the court’s unwillingness to probate or suspend the defendant’s sentence if he went to trial. The Appeals Court explained that the trial court’s hand in plea proceedings resulted in the defendant’s guilty plea, now rendered involuntary.
The Appeals Court reversed the defendant’s convictions and sentencing and returned the case to the trial court, advising the parties that they could negotiate the plea anew or the defendant could proceed to trial.