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Judges split on sentence reduction

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An Indiana Court of Appeals panel was split in determining how much weight to give to a defendant's mental illness in evaluating her sentence.

In Anna Westlake v. State of Indiana, No. 79A04-0803-CR-138, Anna Westlake appealed her 14-year aggregate sentence in the Department of Correction following a guilty plea to Class B felony dealing in cocaine and Class C felony neglect of a dependent. Her 6-year-old son was tested and found to have traces of drugs in his system.

Chief Judge John Baker and Judge Paul Mathias considered Westlake's demonstrated character as crucial to their review of her sentence. She immediately cooperated with police when arrested and showed them where she kept the drugs in her home, she was employed full time while in a pre-conviction release program, participated in outpatient drug treatment programs, and enrolled in parenting classes. Westlake also was diagnosed with and treated for bipolar disorder.

The majority also considered that after she was diagnosed, she was successful in the pre-conviction release program and that the trial court found she was guilty but mentally ill.

"The trial court's further recognition of her need for continued treatment and the effect that the diagnosis and treatment of her bipolar disorder have had on her personal life are also quite important," wrote Judge Mathias.

And although her offenses were serious, they weren't a continuation of a related criminal history and her character is "unusually and extraordinarily mitigating," wrote the judge.

The majority reduced her sentence to seven years imprisonment: two years suspended, one year to supervised probation, one to unsupervised probation with credit for time already served, and the executed portion of the sentence to be served in the Tippecanoe County Community Corrections program.

But Judge Elaine Brown dissented, concluding the majority placed significant emphasis on Westlake's mental illness and progress during her pre-conviction release program, and failed to give due consideration to the trial court's decision. Citing Weeks v. State, 697 N.E.2d 28, 30 (Ind. 1998), Judge Brown wrote there was no evidence presented at sentencing regarding any of the Weeks factors.

"...I believe that the trial court took Westlake's mental illness, progress in treatment, and success in the pre-conviction release program into account by imposing the advisory sentences. At most, I could recommend concurrent rather than consecutive sentences for her offenses," wrote Judge Brown.

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  1. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  2. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  3. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  4. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

  5. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

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