Compared to the sassy 15-year-old who was tried and convicted and sentenced to 45 years in prison, Samoney D. Tanksley on Thursday was a young adult ready to take responsibility for her part in an armed robbery.
Since the day she was arrested March 4, 2014, Tanksley had been behind bars, first in juvenile facilities then adult prisons. Last fall, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled Tanksley was entitled to a new trial in Richmond County Superior Court.
If she had chosen to go to trial, the prosecution would have been prohibited from using the statement she gave to a veteran Richmond County Sheriff investigator because she wasn’t treated as a juvenile but as an adult. It put the high school dropout at a disadvantage, and an unfair one at that, the appeals court found.
With no statement, the victim’s inability to identify Tanksley and the testimony of two of her co-defendants that she wasn’t involved, Tanksley could have taken her shot at another trial. But chances were great the prosecutor would seek to use a comment Tanksley yelled to a co-defendant the day of her arrest, a statement that put her in the middle of an armed robbery. If the prosecutor failed to convince Judge J. Wade Padgett that the comment was admissible, the state would have appealed, meaning months in limbo and still facing the risk of conviction at trial, defense attorney Daniel Franck said Thursday.
Tanksley, now 23, opted to take the plea negotiation — a plea to armed robbery and burglary in exchange for a sentence of 10 years in prison followed by 10 years on probation. Padgett accepted the negotiated sentence.
Tanksley will have to serve the full 10 years in prison without parole, but she is nearly done. She’s not the kid who acted out during her trial, Tanksley told the judge. She’s ready to get back to a life on the outside and to do right, she said.
Tanksley graduated from high school while incarcerated. She hopes to become a counselor when she gets out, Franck said. “I think her chance of success is good.”