munity members are mobilizing an effort to advocate for the release of a young woman serving a life sentence in prison, but the Henry County District Attorney says the appropriate action in the matter would be to let the time frame of the legal system take its course.
A rally in support of Saneka Spikes was held on Sunday, at Rufus Stewart Park in McDonough. It was organized by the Henry County Ministerial Alliance.
Attendees were constantly arriving, and prayers were offered up for Spikes during the rally, according to State Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), one of those who attended. "They [people] just kept coming at different times," said Jones. "We always say prayer changes things."
The rally was held to provide an opportunity for attendees to write letters of support for Spikes, said Antoinette Wright, a former classmate of Spikes and one of the organizers. Eighty-five letters were collected, and they are scheduled to be taken to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles on May 11, said Wright.
Spikes' incarceration began Jan. 9, 1996, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections. "The judge gave her life plus five years," said Henry County District Attorney Tommy Floyd. "That pretty well speaks for itself."
She is presently incarcerated in Pulaski State Prison in Hawkinsville, Ga., for armed robbery, aggravated assault, possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime, and burglary, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.
The charges stem from 1995 incidents in which she reportedly "highjacked" two vehicles and brandished a weapon, according to documents from Henry County Superior Court. She was initially charged with two counts of hijacking a motor vehicle, but those charges were lowered during plea-bargaining, said her former attorney, Warren Power. Power represented Spikes during the 1995 court case. Spikes was also sentenced to 10 years for an unrelated burglary charge, according to Floyd.
Wright, the rally organizer, said Spikes is expected to be up for parole later this year. The actual release date of an inmate may occur prior to the maximum possible release date, due to the inmate receiving clemency by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Floyd said he normally does not contact the parole board when an inmate is scheduled to be up for parole, unless there are extenuating circumstances. "It would not be a situation where I would contact the Parole Board," he said. "On a rare occurrence, if I get a request from the victim to oppose parole, I would consider it, [but] I probably won't, on my own motion."
The District Attorney's office has not been contacted by either victim, Floyd said.
Although Spikes is still in prison, she has since earned her GED, and is now a cosmetologist, said Sen. Jones.
Wright said she has known Spikes since childhood. "I grew up with her and went to high school with her," she said. "We were within months of graduation when this happened." Wright said her friend and classmate needed help when she faced the charges in court, and, according to Wright, Spikes was told to plead guilty.
Her former lawyer sees the matter differently, however. "She wasn't told to plead guilty, that was her decision," Power said Monday. "She signed a plea agreement. At the time, Judge [Hal] Craig was the sentencing judge. I worked out a plea agreement with Tommy Floyd, where they would drop the carjacking charge, and some other charges."
Power said Spikes was told she could have a jury trial. "She elected not to do that," he said. "That was totally her decision."
The judge accepted a guilty, but mentally ill plea, added Power. Spikes' family hired a psychiatrist to testify in her behalf, he said. "That made her eligible to receive some mental-health assistance while she was in prison," said Power.
Sen. Jones, a member of Shiloh Baptist Church in McDonough, said he was unaware of Spikes' plight until he learned the details in 2009. "This is an issue that was brought to me by my pastor, Rev. Edward W. Lee [of Shiloh Baptist]," said Jones. "I didn't know her story until it was shared with me by [him.]
"She has served her time, and paid her dues to society," said Jones. "I think it's commendable that people in the community have started an effort to win her release."