A child rapist will be leaving the Tennessee Department of Corrections sooner than expected thanks to a decision made in his review hearing this past Thursday in Weakley County Circuit Court.
On June 4, 1999, Shane O’Nell Tolbert pleaded guilty to three counts of rape of a child and received a sentence of 15 years in TDOC.
On Nov. 5, 2010, Tolbert filed a petition for relief from conviction in light of the July 7, 2010 Supreme Court of Tennessee decision in Ward v. State, 315 SW 2d 461.
This case states that the trial court has an affirmative duty to inform a defendant of the requirement of lifetime supervision prior to accepting a defendant’s guilty plea.
The result of this case was an established constitutional right not previously recognized at the time of Tolbert’s conviction. Tolbert was not informed by the court prior to his guilty plea that he would be under community supervision for life.
“The state investigated and agrees with the position. The pleas entered into should be set aside and we should now decide how to go about the original indictment,” District Attorney General Tommy Thomas admitted.
Based on the results of the Tennessee Supreme Court case, Circuit Judge William Acree added, “The court has no choice, but to dismiss the original convictions.
“The state has two choices now. Either a plea agreement will be negotiated or this will go to trial and if found guilty, could carry a 25-year sentence.”
Tolbert maintained his guilt and accepted a plea bargain of 12 years in TDOC for the Class B felony charges.
The court maintained that since Tolbert has served nearly 13 years already, his release is imminent. However, he must still register as a sex offender and receive community supervision for life.