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Georgia Supreme Court reverses ruling in Jones County man’s case

The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that a Jones County man was not adequately warned of the dangers of representing himself in court.

Cleveland Merriweather filed a motion for a new trial following his 2003 conviction for burglary, aggravated assault, kidnapping and related crimes.

The trial court denied that motion and asked whether he wanted to represent himself on appeal, according to a news release from the Georgia Supreme Court.

Merriweather chose to represent himself, and the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld his conviction and sentence.

Merriweather then filed a habeas corpus petition in Dooly County alleging that his constitutional right to counsel was violated when the trial court “forced” him to pursue his appeal on his own. The Dooly County court concluded that he chose to go forward “knowing full well the dangers of proceeding without benefit of counsel.”

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham wrote the opinion in the unanimous decision reversing the Dooly court’s decision. The opinion states Merriweather did not “knowingly and intelligently” waive his right to counsel with “full knowledge of the dangers of self-representation.”

“Although the record reflects that the trial court asked appellant several times whether he was sure he wanted to proceed without a lawyer, the record does not reflect that the trial court gave appellant any instruction or admonition about the dangers of self-representation,” the opinion states.

To contact Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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