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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. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

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  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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