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Why a Ga. Supreme Court opinion had inaccurate details. And what's being done to correct the record

An error in a Georgia Supreme Court brief and opinion concerning the relationship between a murder victim and a co-conspirator in the case is being corrected. 

The Times previously published a story concerning the appeal by Brandon Cross to the court over his 2003 murder conviction for the death of Debra Hymer. The court’s opinion upholding the decision, which The Times used for its reporting, said Cross’ co-conspirator, Jessica Cates, was Hymer’s daughter. 

Cates reached out to The Times to say this was false, and this was corroborated by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office said Cates knew members of the Hymer family. 

Cates pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, according to the court’s summary. She was released from prison in June 2018. 

“The summary at the beginning of the (court’s) opinion on the appeal is inaccurate,” according to the Sheriff’s Office. 

Cates said she was concerned for the Hymer family. 

“I definitely have a lot of empathy toward them, and I don’t want to be a participant in any more pain for anybody else,” Cates said. “I definitely felt like it needed to be fixed for them.” 

Jane Hansen, the court’s public information officer, said the opinion was based on the record and briefs submitted to the court before the justices ruled on the appeal. 

“The Supreme Court cannot consider information that is not in the record, which is what the court below sends to this court,” Hansen wrote in an email. 

Hansen sent a copy of Cross’ brief to The Times, which included the error. 

Attorney Matt Cavedon, one of the attorneys representing Cross, wrote in an email that there were a couple of ambiguities in the record concerning Cates’ relationship to Hymer. 

“I do not remember if any of the trial attorneys or Mr. Cross himself identified Ms. Cates as Ms. Hymer’s daughter during our private conversations,” Cavedon wrote in an email. 

Cavedon acknowledged the error and submitted a "notice of factual correction” to the court. 

A number listed for Hymer’s son was disconnected. 

Brandon Cross
Brandon Cross
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