Twenty-seven years ago, Curtis Tyner admitted to binding and throwing Martha Anne Mickel into Bear Creek in south Fulton County. But now, he may be released because of an oversight in his case nearly three decades ago. The state Supreme Court determined his conviction must be overturned though the Fulton County DA plans on appealing.
Tyner pled guilty to killing Mickel but the Supreme Court says he wasn’t fully informed of his rights. The DA’s office disagrees and says “Greenberg, myself and the judge advised him of his rights as we knew them at the time.”
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, he was advised of many of his rights, but there was an oversight when it came to discussing his right against self-incrimination. When you plead guilty to a crime, the court must be certain that you are completely aware of what this means, your rights, and the rights you are waiving by pleading guilty.
When this isn’t done, and the defendant pleads guilty without being fully informed, the conviction can be overturned as it was done in this case. For some, this is considered a “technicality”. But your constitutional rights are anything but.
The transcript from Tyner’s case reveals he was informed about his right to a trial by jury and what that entailed. He was also asked if he understood his rights. But his protection against self-incrimination was never brought up. This, according to Tyner’s attorney meant the guilty plea didn’t pass “constitutional scrutiny.”
Tyner might not make it home. He never did make bail so if the prosecutor has plans on retrying him or appealing the decision (which it appears he does), he could very well be sitting in the Fulton County jail for quite some time.
For the victim’s family, this latest ruling stings. Her brother called the scenario “appalling”. Indeed the oversight by the court in neglecting to inform Tyner of all of his rights is appalling. Had he been informed, it would have been in the transcripts and his guilty plea would not have been in question at all.
However, this is precisely why these protections are in place—to ensure those who find themselves within the criminal courts are protected against the deprivation of liberty at every intersection. Though it’s unfortunate when a killer is freed, it’s equally if not more unfortunate when an innocent person is incarcerated.
If you’ve been charged with a crime and you need help understanding your Constitutional rights, a criminal defense attorney is your best asset. Contact our attorneys today for a consultation on your case.