Court overturns 27-year-old murder conviction

ATLANTA — The state Supreme Court on Monday overturned the conviction of a man who nearly 27 years ago pleaded guilty to murder.

The court ruled that a Fulton County judge violated Curtis Tyner’s constitutional rights when he did not advise that by pleading guilty, Tyner waived his right against self-incrimination, Justice David Nahmias wrote in a unanimous opinion.

Tyner on Sept. 25, 1984, pleaded guilty to murder in the April 1984 death of an IBM executive whose body was found floating in Bear Creek. According to court records, Tyner said he pleaded guilty because prosecutors were planning to seek the death penalty.

“We recognize that reversal of Tyner’s 27-year-old murder conviction may make it difficult for the State to try him or negotiate another plea,” Nahmias wrote.

In the 1969 ruling Boykin v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a criminal defendant must be informed that by pleading guilty, he or she is waiving three constitutional rights: the rights to a jury trial, to confront witnesses and to not to incriminate oneself.

“We do not know if Tyner would have refused to go through with his guilty plea if during the plea hearing the prosecutor had added the words ‘and the right against self-incrimination’ after advising Tyner of his ‘right to cross-examine witnesses called by the State or call witnesses in your own defense.'”

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