In an order issued Friday, Associate District Judge Robert Davis decided to suspend the final four years of the sentence for Patricia M. Spottedcrow, stating she has “done better in the structure of the Department of Corrections than she had during her adult years in the community.”
Spottedcrow, 26, received the sentence last October after selling the marijuana to a police informant in December 2009 and January 2010. Her mother, Delita Starr, 51, was also charged.
Their stories were publicized in a Tulsa World series earlier this year about Oklahoma’s high female incarceration rate.
In blind guilty pleas before a judge, Spottedcrow received prison time and her mother received a 30-year suspended sentence. Neither had prior criminal convictions.
Oklahoma City attorney Josh Welch, who represents Spottedcrow, said the punishment does not fit the crime.
“We are pleased Judge Davis recognized her sentence needed to be modified, but we are simply not pleased with the amount of time that was modified,” Welch said. “I don’t walk away from this feeling good even with four years knocked down, and I’m not going to give up until she is released.”
Welch said he is disappointed in the cancellation of the hearing to modify Spottedcrow’s sentence, which had been scheduled for Thursday. He was informed of the modification Monday after receiving the order in the mail.
“The purpose of the hearing date was for Patricia to testify in court, for the judge to assess her demeanor and determine if a modification was warranted,” Welch said. “We’re shocked the court decided to rule on this by issuing an order instead of having a hearing to listen to all the evidence.”
An assistant for Davis said he did not want to comment, saying the ruling should speak for itself.
Spottedcrow’s case led to a groundswell of support and national attention through online petitions, donations to help her four children and an Oklahoma City rally featuring Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips.
A rally was planned for outside the Kingfisher County Courthouse on Thursday, promoted by the Society to Preserve Indigenous Rights and Indigenous Treaties (SPIRIT) and the Oklahoma NAACP.
Brenda Golden, with SPIRIT, said more than 100 people were expected at the courthouse rally. She said the groups planned to present the judge petitions that had been circulating for months in support of her release.
“We still feel this is very unjust and not what we wanted to happen,” Golden said. “It’s another symptom of Oklahoma sending women to prison away from their children when rehabilitation is more appropriate. Patricia made a mistake, but she needs to be home with her babies. Her children are being punished for this.”
The order lists the legal documents Davis used in determining his ruling.
“No other outside influences or public pressure is factored into this decision,” it states.
Spottedcrow’s original sentence was given by former Associate District Judge Susie Pritchett, who retired last year. Pritchett cited the sale of the drugs while children were in the home as a factor in the sentence.
The order states Spottedcrow “has accomplished much while in prison.”
“Perhaps there was some wisdom in the sentencing judge’s decision to incarcerate the defendant,” it states.
While in prison, Spottedcrow has taken parenting classes, finished her GED and participates in a grief/loss recovery program, a behavior course, Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous and a faith-based program. She is on the waiting list for other education programs.
“Her new behavior should be noted, complimented and rewarded,” the order states. “However, she has only served a relatively short portion of her sentence. This court believes she needs more time to prepare and mature. Her past behavior had consequences. She is experiencing those consequences now.”
Welch said Kingfisher County did not have a drug court or community sentencing available.
“I have a fundamental difference with the judge’s belief that (Pritchett’s) initial sentence was correct or exhibited wisdom,” Welch said. “I don’t believe in incarcerating people the state can help. Here you have a young mother, who had her first child at 16, and made a stupid decision. The state should have stepped in to help rather than send her to prison for a lengthy sentence.
“We incarcerate people because we sometimes think it’s better to be tough on crime and play to constituents rather than think logically about what’s best not only for the defendant but for the state of Oklahoma.”
The order includes Spottedcrow’s actions at the time of the arrest, including a law enforcement report citing an informant’s information and a report stating she was not remorseful.
Welch took issue with some of those assertions. He plans to file an application for post-conviction relief on grounds of ineffective counsel.
“It’s easy for people to be hard on criminals, and sometimes that’s not the smart decision,” Welch said. “Even if all those things in the order were true, I still disagree that 12 years or eight years is appropriate. There are ways to tell a person this type of lifestyle will not be tolerated, but at the same time not perpetuate the problem by putting them in prison for a first offense.”
Spottedcrow is currently up for parole in 2014. Her attorney said that might be bumped up to next year or could remain closer to three years away.
– Article originally from Tulsa World.