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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. Unlike the federal judge who refused to protect me, the Virginia State Bar gave me a hearing. After the hearing, the Virginia State Bar refused to discipline me. VSB said that attacking me with the court ADA coordinator had, " all the grace and charm of a drive-by shooting." One does wonder why the VSB was able to have a hearing and come to that conclusion, but the federal judge in Indiana slammed the door of the courthouse in my face.

  2. I agree. My husband has almost the exact same situation. Age states and all.

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  4. Andrew, if what you report is true, then it certainly is newsworthy. If what you report is false, then it certainly is newsworthy. Any journalists reading along??? And that same Coordinator blew me up real good as well, even destroying evidence to get the ordered wetwork done. There is a story here, if any have the moxie to go for it. Search ADA here for just some of my experiences with the court's junk yard dog. https://www.scribd.com/document/299040062/Brown-ind-Bar-memo-Pet-cert Yep, drive by shootings. The lawyers of the Old Dominion got that right. Career executions lacking any real semblance of due process. It is the ISC way ... under the bad shepard's leadership ... and a compliant, silent, boot-licking fifth estate.

  5. Journalism may just be asleep. I pray this editorial is more than just a passing toss and turn. Indiana's old boy system of ruling over attorneys is cultish. Unmask them oh guardians of democracy.

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