Pope v. GeorgiaAnnotate this Case
Prisoner Jomeka Pope appealed pro se an order denying his “motion to vacate a void and illegal sentence,” “motion to withdraw Alford (guilty) plea,” and “motion for appointment of counsel.” Pope contended that his sentence of life without the possibility of parole was void under former OCGA 17-10-32.1, because the sentencing court failed to comply with it. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed. As to the propriety of the superior court’s denial of Pope’s motion to withdraw his Alford (guilty) plea and his motion for appointment of counsel, such rulings were inextricably linked to the court’s erroneous denial of Pope’s motion to vacate his sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The superior court denied his motion to withdraw the Alford (guilty) plea based primarily upon its finding that the motion was untimely as it was filed more than two years after Pope’s sentence was imposed, and it denied his motion for appointment of counsel after finding that Pope had no right to the appointment of counsel because his motion to withdraw his plea was untimely. Because the superior court’s denial of these motions was premised on timeliness in relation to sentencing, and the Supreme Court determined that Pope’s sentence of life without the possibility of parole was void ab initio, such motions had to be reconsidered. However, the vacating of Pope’s sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole will not render his pleas on the remaining counts subject to withdrawal as a matter of right.