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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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