Posted by Edmond Geary | Posted in Drug Possession, Drug charges, Drug distribution | Posted on 03-03-2011
She is 25 years old and has children 1, 3, 4, and 9 years old. She has never been arrested before, but she sold marijuana one time, so she’s headed to prison. Too harsh? She certainly thinks so. She was startled at the sentence she received.
Patricia Spottedcrow lived with her husband, 4 children and her mother, Delita Starr. She sold $20 worth of marijuana to someone who was an informant for the police. Two weeks before that, the informant had come to the home to buy marijuana. On that earlier occasion, it was Starr who sold the informant $10 worth of marijuana, a “dime bag.” At that sale,Starr directed her 9-year-old grandson to fetch the marijuana. Thereafter, both Spottedcrow and Starr were arrested and charged in Kingfisher County District Court with distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, marijuana. Added to those charges, both were charged with possession of a controlled
dangerous substance in the presence of a minor.
When they got to court, Spottedcrow decided to decline the District Attorney’s plea bargain offer of a two-year sentence, two years in prison. Spottedcrow, after talking it over with her lawyer, thought her clean record and the small amount of drugs involved ought to give her a chance at probation. Thus, she turned down the offer to agree to a sentence and threw herself on the mercy of the court. She “pled blind,” that is, she pled guilty without any limitation on the high or low end of the sentence she could receive, so long as the sentence she received was within the range of punishment set out by statute. That range is from 10 years to life imprisonment for the distribution charge.
Obviously, she believed her circumstances, perhaps including having young children at home, gave her a very good chance of probation. Added to this, her sentencing was scheduled just before Christmas and the judge was due to retire a few days later.
The judge gave Ms. Spottedcrow a sentence of ten years in prison. No probation. Her 50-year-old mother, Delita Starr, received probation for 30 years, along with a fine of $8,600, making her available to take care of the children. “Never in a million years did I think I’d be here 10 years,” Ms. Spottedcrow said later from Eddie Warrior women’s prison in Taft. She said when she went to court for her sentencing she just knew she would receive probation.
That was the problem, She never seemed to take it seriously in the eyes of the judge. Judge Suzie Pritchett, who retired last December and was not a harsh judge, said later she thought the sentence she gave was lenient under the circumstances. She said, “It was a way of
life for them,” referring to Spottedcrow and Starr selling drugs. Of course, that’s what the drug agents often tell judges. But it is clear these were not the only sales the two had made. Both sales were made by a confidential informant, meaning that the sale was set up in advance, which means the police already had information they had already been selling. Otherwise, they would not have had a reason to set up these two controlled sales. And after acknowledging that suspended sentences are often given in cases involving first time offenders, the judge also said: “When kids are involved, it’s different.” The children in this case, because they were present and even involved in the sale, did not help Ms. Spottedcrow get a lesser sentence.
As usual when a judge is the one to make the decision on what sentence a defendant should receive, the judge in this case ordered a presentence investigation and report to be made. As part of that, the probation officer who writes the report interviews the defendant about what happened. The report in this case reported, “It does not appear the defendant is aware a problem exists or that she needs to make changes in her current behavior.. and she makes justifications for her actions.”
As any criminal defense lawyer will tell you, that is the absolute last thing a defendant wants a judge to read. It is fatal for a judge to believe that a defendant does not accept responsibility for her actions or is not contrite. That means she not just sorry that she got caught, especially when the judge is in a position to give a maximum sentence.
If there were any doubt whether Ms. Spottedcrow had taken serious the sentence she was facing, any doubt whether she had gotten the message, a discovery immediately following her sentencing ended such doubt. As Ms. Spottedcrow was led away from the courtroom to the jail, a deputy sheriff searched her pockets and found marijuana in Ms. Spottedcrow’s pocket.