Georgia v. KelleyAnnotate this Case
The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether, absent the consent of the State, a trial court has the authority to enter judgment and impose sentence on a guilty plea to an uncharged, lesser included offense, and what authority, if any, the State has to withdraw its consent to a negotiated plea upon learning of the trial court’s intention to reject the State’s recommended sentence and impose a lighter one. Terry Kelley was indicted for felony murder and other crimes for his participation in an armed robbery attempt that resulted in the death of a participant in the crime. In October 2012, the parties reached a plea agreement: Kelley would plead guilty to the reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter, he would testify truthfully against his co-defendants, and the State would nolle prosse the remaining charges and recommend a 20-year sentence. The trial court heard the factual basis for the plea, engaged in a colloquy with Kelley, and heard from various character witnesses. Thereafter, the court accepted Kelley’s guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter but sentenced him to a term of only ten years, with five to be served in prison and the balance on probation; the trial court also ordered Kelley to testify truthfully against his co-defendants. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court did not have the authority to accept a guilty plea to an uncharged, lesser included offense without the consent of the State, and that, where the State makes a timely and specific objection, it has the legal authority to withdraw its consent from a negotiated plea and demand a trial when it learns that the trial court does not intend to follow the sentencing.