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Sarah Toney pleaded guilty to drowning her baby. But now she wants to be defended.

Mother pleaded guilty to homicide by child abuse in January

Sarah Lane Toney, Mother of 'Baby Grace', pled guilty to homicide by child abuse and was sentenced to 27 years in prison by Judge Steven John in a Conway courtroom today. Jan. 11, 2017.
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Sarah Lane Toney, Mother of 'Baby Grace', pled guilty to homicide by child abuse and was sentenced to 27 years in prison by Judge Steven John in a Conway courtroom today. Jan. 11, 2017.

Sarah Toney told a judge in January that she was guilty of homicide by child abuse in the drowning death of her five-month-old daughter and was sentenced to 27 years in jail.

But now the 34-year-old Socastee woman tells the court that she wants to repeal her plea, and is asking for a trial and jury to redecide her fate.

In a mostly handwritten motion to the court, Toney cited numerous reasons for her request on May 18, which is under consideration by a judge.

She says her plea was made involuntarily and was “unlawfully induced,” and that her lawyer failed to adequately represent her.

Toney’s lawyer, Jonathan Fox, is with the public defender’s office.

She says her plea was “not made voluntary or with a complete understanding of the nature of the charges and the inadequacies of the plea potential.”

“I did not understand the nature of the constitutional rights being waved,” Toney said.

She says that no expert witnesses were called to testify on her mental health state, or whether she suffered from postpartum depression.

Toney was arrested in November 2015 and charged with the crime after rescue officials searched three days for the infant named Grace in the swollen flood waters of a nearby creek.

Drug tests presented at her plea hearing showed that Toney was under the influence of methamphetamine and opioids when she walked into the creek holding her daughter.

During the original hearing, Fox pleaded for leniency in Toney’s sentencing, saying that his client led a troubled life and was sexually abused as a young girl.

Fox said Toney’s parents also struggled with substance abuse.

“Sarah Toney is absolutely devastated. This was her child,” Fox said during the hearing.

The defense and prosecution said Toney’s substance abuse issue played a part in her actions the day her child drowned.

Emily Weaver contributed to this report.

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson

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