Appeals court upholds conviction of former CCU athlete serving 18 years in prison in home invasion

troot@thesunnews.comApril 4, 2013 

— A state Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of a former Coastal Carolina University athlete serving 18 years in prison in connection with a 2007 armed robbery, according to an opinion released Wednesday.

Mario Tynes, 25, appealed his convictions of first-degree burglary, armed robbery, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and unlawful carrying of a pistol to the Court of Appeals.

Tynes was a CCU football player from Atlanta when he and four other men were arrested Oct. 13, 2007, in connection with a home invasion at Flintlake Apartments off Burcale Road where marijuana, cellphones and cash were stolen at gunpoint.

Tynes and Michael Jerrod Lackey, 25, were convicted of the charges and each sentenced to 18 years in prison without the possibility of parole during a trial in May 2010. A third man, Joshua Readon, 25, entered an Alford plea before the trial and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The suspects were arrested after a traffic stop Oct. 14, 2007, during which officers seized two guns, three pounds of marijuana and $1,345 in cash from the car the men were in, police said at the time of the incident. Prosecutors said during the trial that the men had robbed a drug dealer minutes before an officer on Forestbrook Road stopped their vehicle, which matched the description given by witnesses following the robbery.

In his appeal, Tynes questioned the circuit court judge’s ruling to allow evidence found during a search of the vehicle; the testimony of officers who searched the vehicle; the allowance of DNA evidence during the trial that Tynes could not be excluded as a contributor of DNA found on a gun used in the crime and found in the vehicle; and evidence that prosecutors could require a witness to submit to a polygraph test.

In the ruling, the justices wrote: “We hold the trial court acted within its discretion in admitting the evidence found during the search of the car and in allowing the state to present testimony that Tynes could not be excluded as a contributor to DNA found on a gun seized during the search. We further affirm the trial court’s refusal to allow the jury to be informed that [the witness’s] agreement with the state included a condition that he undergo polygraph testing if the state so requested.”

The other men – Eric Brown and Ricky Johnson – 0pleaded guilty and were sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act to five years in prison with a recommendation of shock incarceration. Brown and Johnson are former CCU football teammates of Tynes, while Readon played high school football with Tynes and Lackey.

Tynes, Brown and Johnson were redshirt freshmen on the team when they were arrested in 2007. All three were dismissed from the team after they were charged.

Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.

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