ATLANTA — The Georgia Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision, reinstating a 20-year sentence for a woman convicted for her and her 12-year-old son’s involvement in the 2009 robbery of the Lucky Grocery Store, 1423 Stockbridge Road in Jonesboro.
In the case of Benton, Warden v. Hines, Bridgette Hines had successfully argued that her appeals attorney provided “ineffective assistance of counsel.” Hines, who is serving time in Habersham County, made her case before the habeas court there, which set aside her convictions and sentence.
However, in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Keith R. Blackwell, the state Supreme Court reversed the ruling, reinstating Hines’s convictions and sentence.
Hines, along with Geoffrey Jupiter and Ricky Timmons Jr., took part in the robbery. Hines and Jupiter were tried together. Timmons testified against them as part of a plea deal. Hines argued that her appeals counsel should have pointed out Timmons was avoiding a possible 30-year sentence by testifying against her.
According to Timmons, on Jan. 1, 2009, Hines and her 12-year-old son went into the store whole the others waited in the car. Hines then drove the group to a residential neighborhood, asked her son to remove the license plate, handed Timmons a gun and drove back to the store. There, Timmons and Jupiter donned masks and held up the store. Police said the robbers punched a clerk in the stomach and left him in the bathroom. When Clayton County Police stopped their car, Timmons and Jupiter ran but were caught. Jonesboro Police officers who saw Timmons and Jupiter flee the store testified they found a pistol under Hines’ seat and hundreds of dollars stuffed inside the 12-year-old’s jacket sleeve.
Hines testified that her son took off the license plate because it was hanging by one screw, that she had only gone to the store to play a slot machine for cash and was refused, and went back so Timmons could buy cigarillos. She testified that she knew nothing of the robbery. However, Hines had told police that she had seen the gun beforehand and that Jupiter had offered to pay her for a ride.
In March 2009, a Clayton County grand jury indicted Hines, Jupiter and Timmons. In October 2009, a jury found Hines guilty of armed robbery, aggravated assault, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and concealing the identity of a motor vehicle and she was sentenced to 20 years. The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld Hines’ convictions and sentences.
In August 2017, Hines filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, challenging her conviction on constitutional grounds. The habeas court agreed her counsel had been ineffective. The state Attorney General’s office then appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
“The jury had learned from cross-examination of Timmons that by making a plea deal, he was avoiding a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence ‘with no chance of parole,’” a summary from the state Supreme Court noted. “The jury also learned that Timmons would be eligible for parole immediately, regardless of the sentence he received, as a result of his guilty plea.”
The court ruled, “We cannot say that the marginal value of additional impeachment based on Timmons’s potential maximum sentence…would have made a difference in the jury’s assessment of his credibility, especially since his testimony was corroborated by other evidence, including the testimony of two police officers and Hines’s own incriminating statement.”