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Rawles v. Holt

Supreme Court of Georgia

December 10, 2018

RAWLES
v.
HOLT.

          BOGGS, JUSTICE.

         This Court granted Markell Rawles' application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal the denial of his petition for habeas corpus, posing the question of whether the habeas court erred in finding that Rawles waived his right to file the petition in exchange for a reduced sentence. We conclude that the State has not met its burden of showing Rawles' waiver, and we therefore reverse the trial court's ruling and remand this case with direction.

         In March 2010, a jury found Rawles guilty of 6 counts of armed robbery, 12 counts of aggravated assault, 6 counts of kidnapping, 6 counts of false imprisonment, and 6 counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime. The trial court merged the 6 counts of aggravated assault into the armed robbery convictions and sentenced him to serve 25 years followed by a term of probation.

         Rawles' trial counsel filed a motion for new trial on the general grounds on March 17, 2010. New counsel, Elizabeth Rogan, amended that motion on November 18, 2010, arguing that the evidence was insufficient because it did not support the kidnapping conviction in light of Garza v. State, 284 Ga. 696 (670 S.E.2d 73) (2008) (superseded by OCGA § 16-5-40 for offenses committed on or after July 1, 2009); the similar transaction evidence was improperly admitted; there were errors in the trial court's instructions to the jury and irregularities in the verdict form; and Rawles' trial counsel was ineffective. In response, the State conceded that three of the issues raised in Rawles' amended motion "have arguable merit." As a result, Rawles and the State discussed Rawles waiving his "right to appeal . . . and be[ing] re-sentenced by th[e] court to a lesser sentence."

         On February 4, 2011, the trial court held a hearing on the matter and resentenced Rawles to 15 years to serve followed by a term of probation in accordance with the agreement reached between Rawles and the State. During that hearing, the trial court inquired if Rawles understood that he would "specifically waive [his] right to appeal as a special condition of . . . probation." Rawles asked questions regarding the specific conditions of probation and then responded that he understood and agreed to the waiver. The following colloquy then took place:

The Court: As a special condition of your probation, as you have agreed to do to achieve this sentence, you will waive any right to appeal the conviction in this case . . . . If you decide to file a habeas corpus petition it must be filed within 4 years. Anything further from the State?
[The State]: No, Your Honor.
The Court: Anything further from counsel on his behalf?
Ms. Rogan: No, Your Honor.
The Court: And do you understand all of that, Mr. Rawles?
Mr. Rawles: What was the last little bit you said?
The Court: About habeas corpus petition that you can file it within 4 years but I believe that would be in violation of your waiver of your right to appeal.
Mr. Rawles: Yes.
The Court: So I take that back. I did that ...

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