The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

September 8, 2013

Haney case defendant loses bid to dismiss guilty plea

— One of three men who pleaded guilty in a 2010 attack on a Tanner couple has lost his bid to have his guilty plea dismissed and stand trial instead.

Mario Lamar Taylor, of Athens, pleaded guilty in April 2012 in the burglary, assault, robbery and kidnapping of Shirley and Charlotte Haney from their southern Limestone County home. Taylor plead guilty to two counts each of second-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery and one count each of first-degree burglary and third-degree burglary and received a life sentence.

Taylor’s cohorts also pleaded guilty — one before him and one after — and have received lighter sentences.

Damien Lamar Mitchell, of Athens, pleaded guilty midway through his trial in February to two counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of second-degree kidnapping and one count of third-degree burglary in exchange for a 30-year sentence.

Joshua Ray Cowan, of Elkmont, entered a blind plea of guilty in March 2012 and was sentenced to 75 years in prison for two counts each of second-degree kidnapping and one count each of first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and third-degree burglary.

Cowan had once done repairs at the Haney home.

“Taylor had filed a motion (in December 2012) asking the court to set aside his guilty plea saying he did not understand what he was doing at the time,” Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones said Thursday.

During a one-hour motion hearing Thursday in Limestone County Circuit Court, Taylor’s attorney had called in a neurophysiologist who testified Taylor did not understand what he was doing when he entered the plea, Jones said. Taylor also took the stand on his own behalf and said he did not comprehend his actions in pleading guilty.

After hearing the arguments, Circuit Judge Robert Baker rejected Taylor’s request.

Prosecutors had said Mitchell drove the getaway vehicle the night of the attack and that Cowan and Taylor carried out the burglary, assault, kidnapping and robbery. However, Jones said Friday both Mitchell and Taylor had said they were driving. Under the law, it does not matter which one did it.

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