OK Woman Sentenced to 12 years for $31 Marijuana to Get Early Parole Hearing
Patricia pleaded guilty and received a 12 year sentence for selling $20 of marijuana to a police informant at the home she shared with her mother and possession of marijuana in the presence of a child. The severity of her sentence caused her case to receive national media attention. Spottedcrow, age 25, has four children, no prior convictions, was broke and had recently lost her home. cently lost her home. The two children present in the home, one of whom was a 10 month old infant, did not witness the transaction according to Patricia. [More...]
Her mother had sold $10 of marijuana to the informant at the home a few weeks earlier. Patricia was not charged with that offense. The informant only had a $20 bill, and her mother asked one of the grandsons, age 8, for change. She received a 30 year suspended sentence.
When Spottedcrow was booked at the jail following her sentencing, she had a small amount of marijuana in her jacket. She later pleaded guilty to that and got another two years, but it was ordered concurrent with the 12 year sentence.
On reconsideration, the Judge modified her sentence to 8 years in prison and 4 on probation because she had gotten her GED in prison and otherwise done well there. She then applied for early consideration of parole.
This week, thanks to a parole board member who read her pleading and recommended her for consideration, the board unanimously agreed to consider her application.
After her story was published in the Tulsa World, a groundswell of support grew. Supporters expressed concern with possible racial bias, unequal punishment among crimes, women in prison, effects on children of incarcerated parents and extreme sentences for drug offenses.
Spottedcrow and her mother had initially been offered a two year sentence. They turned it down and pleaded guilty without any sentencing concessions, gambling the judge would be more lenient. Spottedcrow says her lawyer assured her the judge would not impose more than 2 years since the amount was so small. She also says her lawyer said if she pleaded guilty, her mother would not go to jail.
Some more details: After being sentenced to 12 years, she called her attorney to ask about an appeal or grounds to withdraw her plea, but he didn't return her call. He has since been convicted of two felonies, perjury by subornation and allowing the introduction of a false exhibit as evidence in an unrelated case. His license is suspended while he appeals his convictions.
She now has a post-conviction motion pending, alleging the sentence was cruel and excessive, and that her attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel. It lays out the facts of her charges and sentences, and differs slightly from news reports. For example, it makes clear her sentences were 12 years and 2 years concurrent, and were not reduced to 8 years but modified to requiring only 8 of the 12 years be served in prison. And that she only engaged in one sale at her home (it was her mother who handled the first transaction.) She and her mother were represented by the same attorney, raising issues of conflict of interest. It also explains the "blind plea" and her grounds for alleging her lawyer improperly advised her.
The plea hearing was also unusual. When she entered the plea, the documents mistakenly said the penalty was 0 to 2 years on the sale charge rather than 2 to life. That's what the judge advised her. The same thing happened at her mother's plea hearing. Later that day, the judge realized the mistake and called them back into court to advise them correctly. Patricia re-entered her plea acknowledging the sentence could be 2 to life and there were no concessions. (At her mother's retaking of the plea, the lawyer acknowledged making the mistake, saying he was thinking of what the state was going to be asking for.) At Patricia's sentencing, the prosecutor asked for 15 years.
Whether it was $20 or $31 of marijuana. and one or two sales, 8 years in prison is clearly excessive, regardless of the presence of children in the home.
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