George Anthony Wilson, whose appeal of his initial murder conviction was delayed more than a decade by a clerical error, pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder in the death of Tacoma’s Yoshiko Couch.
Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper sentenced Wilson to 20 years, four months in prison as part of an agreement between his lawyer, Zenon Olbertz, and county prosecutors.
The deal shaved five years off the sentence he received 15 years ago when a jury convicted him of first-degree murder in Couch’s death. The 65-year-old woman was raped, robbed and asphyxiated in her home by Cecil Davis, who was sentenced to die for the crime. Wilson was convicted as an accomplice.
Prosecutors argued at trial that Wilson, 17 at the time of the crime, knew details about Couch’s death that he could have known only had he invaded Couch’s house with Davis the night of Jan. 25, 1997.
Wilson, now 34, always denied being involved in Couch’s death, contending he never went inside the house after Davis kicked in the door and rushed inside.
He appealed his conviction in 2001, saying he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Superior Court forwarded his appeal onto the Court of Appeals, but the paperwork never made it.
Once the mistake was realized in 2012, an appellate panel agreed that he deserved a new trial and sent the case back to Pierce County earlier this year.
Wilson decided to plead guilty to the lesser count to avoid another trial.