Posted: 9:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, 2011

Woman shares story after being wrongfully imprisoned for 2 years

Wrongfully jailed
Wrongfully jailed

By Mark Winne

ATLANTA —

An Atlanta woman locked up for two years has learned she was not supposed to serve a single day in prison.

Channel 2's Mark Winne found a series of sentencing mistakes have a chief judge admitting something went horribly wrong.

"I was very, very angry. I was hurt and I was confused," said Mecca Hawkins Marson, who was wrongfully imprisoned.

Marson said she is currently in a program working to get her life where it is supposed to be after spending more than two years where she was not supposed to be - -- a prison.

"Working every day with my higher power, with my God to have a better life," Marson said. "I lost my father when I was in prison. I know that I could've been there for him in his last days. I could've went to the funeral. There's so many 'could haves.'"

Marson said she fell in with the wrong people and pleaded guilty to drug possession cases.

"I trusted the system," Marson said.


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Winne tracked down two sentence sheets for the same case. The first shows a five-year sentence, but the box for probation is not checked, even though a transcript shows the judge said, "I will sentence you as negotiated to five years to serve on probation."

Another sentence sheet was eventually filed with a box checked showing the whole sentence could be served on probation but, "The jail actually put her on a transport van and sent her off to prison," attorney Ashleigh Merchant said.

An official says the Court Clerk's Office faxed the erroneous sentence sheet to the Fulton County Jail on Jan. 16, 2008.

The corrected sentence sheet was faxed to the jail Feb. 4.

Two days later she was still at the jail and was transported to a state prison for a sentence she was not supposed to serve.

Her new lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, said records Winne obtained show Marson should've done about a month more in the county jail for violating probation in an earlier case, but should never have been shipped to prison.

"Yes, the system does owe her an apology. This was wrong," Merchant said.

Chief Judge Cynthia Wright of the Fulton County Superior Court agrees.

"It isn't right what happened to her," she said.

Winne asked Wright if the system is broken and Wright answered, "The system is overburdened."

A clerk's office official said it was not one of their people that filled out the erroneous sheet.

A spokesperson said the State Department of Corrections only got the modified order late last month, after Marson was on parole.

Merchant said Judge Walter Lovett was the person who uncovered the mistake after Mason got out and he got her off parole.