Supreme Court upholds 27-year-old Thomas Co. murder conviction

Updated: Oct. 2, 2017 at 8:18 AM EDT
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ATLANTA, GA (WALB) - The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction and life prison sentence given to Ernest Byrd Shuman, who pleaded guilty to choking to death a 7-year-old boy in 1990 and throwing his body into the Little Ochlocknee River.

After pleading guilty in 1990 to malice murder and concealing the death of another, in May 2016, Shuman – representing himself without an attorney – filed a motion for an "out-of-time" appeal, asking the court to allow him to appeal his convictions and prison sentence. Normally, a defendant has only 30 days from the date of the judgment against him to file a notice that he intends to appeal.

Shuman waited nearly 26 years before filing his notice. There are instances when a court will grant extra time to file an appeal. In his motion, Shuman said he was seeking the late appeal on the grounds that his guilty plea was not "knowing, intelligent or voluntary," as required, and that his attorney was ineffective and incompetent, in violation of his constitutional rights. The Thomas County Superior Court denied his motion and he then appealed that denial to the Georgia Supreme Court.

In today's unanimous opinion, written by Justice David E. Nahmias, the high court has upheld the trial court's decision, ruling that the trial court properly denied Shuman's motion.

According to the facts of the case, in 1990, Shuman was running a gas station on Jackson Street in Thomasville, GA. Ronald Wyche, Jr., who was 7 years old, lived with his family on a dirt road that ran next to the station. On April 3, 1990 at about 7:00 p.m., Ronald left home to go to the station after his mother gave him a dollar to buy a drink or goodies.

His family would never see him again. Shuman was just locking up for the night but allowed the child into the store. After ringing up Ronald's items and giving him change, Shuman choked the boy to death. He then put the boy's body in a bag and tossed it into the Little Ochlocknee River. Ronald's body was found in the river 29 days later about seven miles north of Thomasville.

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