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Smith v. Magnuson

Supreme Court of Georgia

June 1, 2015


Habeas corpus. Chattooga Superior Court. Before Judge Graham.

Judgment affirmed.

Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Womack, Gottlieb & Rodham, Steven M. Rodham, for appellant.

Law Firm of Shein & Brandenburg, Marcia G. Shein, Elizabeth A. Brandenburg; Law Offices of Jeffery C. Talley, Jeffery C. Talley, for appellee.

THOMPSON, Chief Justice. All the Justices concur.


Page 206

Thompson, Chief Justice.

This is an appeal by the warden from the grant of habeas corpus relief to petitioner Andrew Magnuson based on the habeas court's determination that Magnuson's guilty pleas were invalid and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. For the reasons that follow, we find no error in the habeas court's conclusion that Magnuson's guilty pleas were invalid and, therefore, we affirm.[1]

Magnuson was indicted by a Fayette County grand jury on charges of enticing a child for indecent purposes (two counts), possession of child pornography, and attempted kidnapping. In 2001, during a group plea, Magnuson entered non-negotiated guilty pleas to all counts of the indictment. During the plea hearing, the judge asked if any defendant had ever been a patient in a mental health facility or under the care of a psychiatrist, and Magnuson incorrectly answered that he had not. Plea counsel informed

Page 207

the judge prior to acceptance of Magnuson's pleas that Magnuson had in fact been [297 Ga. 211] institutionalized and treated for mental health problems but added that he could not say whether psychiatrists had been involved. Counsel then stated that Magnuson had been found competent to stand trial, to which the court responded, " he appears as such." The court ultimately accepted Magnuson's pleas without making any further inquiry into his mental health history or his then-current mental state.[2] After a sentencing hearing, Magnuson was sentenced to two consecutive 20-year terms of imprisonment on the enticement charges, a consecutive 20-year probated term of imprisonment on the pornography charge, and a consecutive five-year probated term of imprisonment on the attempted kidnapping charge.

In 2008, Magnuson filed a petition for habeas corpus asserting that his mental condition prevented him from entering valid guilty pleas and challenging the effectiveness of plea counsel on numerous grounds, all of which involved allegations related to counsel's failure to adequately investigate Magnuson's mental health history and mental condition at the time of the crimes and at the time his plea was entered, counsel's failure to discover and use such evidence to support mental health defenses which could have been raised at trial, and/or counsel's failure to discover and present such evidence to the trial court at the time of his plea.

An evidentiary hearing was held at which evidence of Magnuson's long history of mental health problems was introduced. This undisputed evidence showed that since an early age, Magnuson has suffered from mental disorders requiring the care of psychiatrists and mental health providers, the taking of prescribed medications, and his participation in regular group and individual mental health therapies. His disorders have on several occasions resulted in his hospitalization. In addition to this evidence, Magnuson presented the testimony of two expert witnesses. The first witness, Joanne Kimball, is a mental health therapist who treated Magnuson both before and after his arrest on the instant charges. Kimball testified that when she first met Magnuson, he had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, he was functioning at a low level of maturity, and he needed help with adult [297 Ga. 212] daily living skills. She also related that when she visited Magnuson after his arrest, he did not understand the severity of the charges being brought against him, and he had no comprehension of how long he might spend in jail, believing that he would spend six or eight weeks in jail and then go home.

The second expert witness, Dr. Terence Campbell, is a psychologist specializing in forensic psychology. Dr. Campbell stated that in his opinion, consistent with Magnuson's mental health history, Magnuson suffered from an impulse control disorder that causes him to make fabricated statements that do not make any sense and are easily discredited. According to Dr. Campbell, the making of such statements is usually driven by an individual's anxiety in an effort to remove himself from a difficult situation. As it pertains to the plea hearing, Dr. Campbell testified that due to the circumstances of the group plea, Magnuson's impulse disorder, and the fact that Magnuson is more susceptible to conformity than the typical person, Magnuson would have answered the plea court's questions in conformity with the general affirmative answer of the group without giving any consideration to or having any real understanding of the consequences of his answers. Based on this and other evidence presented at ...

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