Darling v. McLaughlinAnnotate this Case
In 2011, Thomas Darling pled guilty to felony murder for having failed to promptly seek medical treatment for a minor child, and was sentenced to life in prison. In November 2013, Darling filed a pro se petition for habeas corpus relief challenging the voluntariness of his plea. At an evidentiary hearing in 2014, Darling’s plea counsel (among other witnesses) testified. The habeas court granted the parties 60 days to file posthearing briefs, and Terry Marlowe entered an appearance as counsel for Darling. Marlowe filed on Darling’s behalf a motion to dismiss Darling’s pro se petition without prejudice, pursuant to OCGA 9-11-41 (a) (2), claiming that testimony at the evidentiary hearing revealed that plea counsel coerced Darling’s plea by misrepresenting the date at which Darling would become parole eligible. In response to this motion, the Warden relied on OCGA 9-11-41 (a)(1), as did the habeas court. The court denied Darling’s motion, finding that witnesses had been sworn and had provided testimony at the evidentiary hearing, and that the Warden had not agreed to dismissal. The Georgia Supreme Court granted Darling’s application for a Certificate of Probable Cause to appeal to determine whether the habeas court abused its discretion by relying on OCGA 9-11-41(a) (1) to deny Darling’s motion to dismiss when the motion to dismiss was made pursuant to OCGA 9-11-41(a) (2). The Supreme Court vacated the habeas court’s order and remanded this case to the habeas court for consideration of Darling’s motion to dismiss pursuant to the terms of OCGA 9-11-41 (a) (2).