Spriggs, 30, sought to withdraw his October 2012 guilty plea in the 2009 murder and robbery of John Gregory Davis, 46, and in the shooting of Davis’ son-in-law. He appeared Wednesday before Superior Court Judge Walter Matthews to argue that his plea should be withdrawn because he was coerced, had a mental illness and was under duress. Spriggs also claims he had ineffective counsel.
Spriggs currently is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole.
District Attorney Leigh Patterson didn’t address Spriggs’ arguments, instead saying Matthews had no jurisdiction to hear the motion.
According to Patterson, a motion to withdraw a plea must be filed in the same court term as the sentencing.
“Five terms of court have passed since Mr. Spriggs was sentenced,” Patterson said. “The trial judge should dismiss the motion for lack of jurisdiction.”
JJ Seifert, Spriggs’ public defender, argued Matthews could hear the motion under extraordinary circumstances.
“Mr. Spriggs’ is alleging to some degree that he was unable to communicate with his attorney,” she said.
Matthews, however, said his authority is limited. Instead of a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, Spriggs should have filed a petition for habeas corpus, a different kind of appeal, in Lowndes County where he’s held in Valdosta State Prison.
A habeas corpus petition is a civil filing against a prison warden, arguing that errors occurred in a trial or guilty plea. “All of these issues, if he intends to raise them, need to be raised in the habeas petition, or they’re forfeited,” Matthews said.
If Spriggs prevailed in his attempt to have his guilty plea withdrawn or overturned, the clock would be turned back on his case. He would then proceed to trial or another guilty plea.
Spriggs on Nov. 17, 2009, went on a shooting spree that led to the death of John Gregory Davis, the father of Spriggs’ ex-girlfriend.
Spriggs confronted Davis at his home on Old Dalton Road and then went to the East Clinton Drive home of Davis’ son-in-law, where Spriggs shot him. The son-in-law recovered.
Spriggs fled into some nearby woods, where authorities convinced him to turn himself in.
Spriggs in October pleaded guilty to charges of murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, aggravated stalking, false imprisonment, burglary, terroristic threats and battery.
“We’re happy with the outcome of today,” said Marlie Davis Baker, John Gregory Davis’ sister, after Wednesday’s hearing.