By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in News
Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm
|John Clanton/Tulsa World|
|Patricia Spottedcrow is serving eight years in an Oklahoma prison for selling $31 worth of marijuana to a police informant|
A young Oklahoma mother of four who is serving an eight-year prison sentence on a first-time marijuana offense -- for selling $31 worth of pot -- has a chance at parole after the parole board unanimously agreed to hear her case early.
Patricia Spottedcrow, 26, is scheduled to appear on the Pardon and Parole Board's docket between April 17 and 20 in Oklahoma City, reports Ginnie Graham at Tulsa World.
Parole board member Marc Dreyer of Tulsa had asked for a pre-docket investigation report on Spottedcrow. After looking at the findings, he made a motion at the January board meeting to speed up her parole board hearing. Others agreed.
"I thought her case was worthy of consideration," Dreyer said.
|Adam Wisneski/Tulsa World|
|Patricia Spottedcrow carries her mattress and belongings to her dorm-style building inside Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center on the first day of her incarceration at the facility|
Spottedcrow was busted for selling marijuana to a police snitch in December 2009 and again in January 2010. Her mother, Delita Starr, 51, was also charged.
Because Spottedcrow's children were in the home, a bullshit charge of "possession of a dangerous substance in the presence of a minor" was added.
In blind pleas before a vindictive judge -- i.e., pleading guilty without knowing your sentence, always a spectacularly bad idea -- Spottedcrow got a 12-year sentence and her mother got a 30-year suspended sentence. Neither had any previous criminal convictions.
At the time, Kingfisher County had no community sentencing program, such as a Drug Court of Women In Recovery, reports Tulsa World.
|Oklahoma Department of Corrections|
When Patricia was booked -- after her sentence was handed down -- marijuana was found in the jacket she was wearing. She also pleaded guilty to that additional charge, and was sentenced to two years (a patently ridiculous sentence for simple possession of a small amount), running concurrently with her previous draconian sentence.
After her story hit the press, a groundswell of support grew for Spottedcrow (for information on how to send a letter to the parole board in support of Patricia, see below).
Supporters are concerned about possible racial bias (Spottedcrow is Native American), unequal punishment among crimes, women in prison, effects on the young children of incarcerated parents and extreme sentences for drug offenses.
In October, a Kingfisher County judge took four years off her original 12-year sentence.
"It's fantastic the board is taking such an interest in this," said Oklahoma City attorney Josh Welch, who has been donating his legal services to represent Spottedcrow. 'It speaks volumes that one member of the board, on his own, though this is worthy to do."
Welch filed for post-conviction relief on Tuesay, alleging Spottedcrow's original attorney was ineffective and had a conflict in representing both Patricia and her mother. His petition also argues the sentence "is excessive and shocks the conscience."
|The Weed Blog/Tulsa World|
Spottedcrow's original defense attorney, the hapless Mark Clayborne, has since been convicted of two felony charges -- perjury by subornation and allowing the introduction of a false exhibit as evidence -- after jury trial in an unrelated case.
Clayborne's law license got suspended in Oklahoma while he appeals the conviction. He'll be disbarred if the conviction is upheld, according to court records.
Clayborne declined Welch's request to provide a statement about Spottedcrow's case.
Welch, who called the early hearing with the parole board "a step in the right direction," said he will go ahead with the appeal to contest the merits of her sentence and possibly get an early release from probation.
"Unfortunately, there are a lot of Patricia Spottedcrows in the state that many do not know about -- where people have been incarcerated when there are better alternatives to treat them," Welch said.
HOW YOU CAN HELP: Send a Letter to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board
1. Begin Writing Letters NOW to the Parole Board. Sample:
Dear Sir/Madam:I am writing to you on behalf of Patricia Spottedcrow,ODOC #622641 whose case is up for review on your April 2012 docket.Ms. Spottedcrow's extremely harsh sentence did not fit the crime. She had no prior record or arrests and threw herself upon the mercy of the court, where in the court had none. Please consider the fact that Ms. Spottedcrow has made some significant positive changes in her life. Also know that she has a strong support system in the community, in Oklahoma and around the world. This case was a travesty of justice to say the least, and I hope you will do the right thing and approve Ms. Spottedcrow's parole. Set her free.Thank you.YOUR NAME, etc.
• You must show a valid return address on the front of the envelope.
• You must write on the back: Patricia Spottedcrow, #622641, April 2012.
Ms. Lynnelle Harkins
P.O. Box 7206
Moore, OK 73153-1206
Mr. Richard L. Dugger
P.O. Box 21748
Oklahoma City, OK 73156
Mr. Currie Ballard
P.O. Box 839
Langston, OK 73050-0839
Mr. David Moore
P.O. Box 8395
Edmond, OK 73083
Dr. Marc Dreyer
2800 S. Yale Avenue
Tulsa, OK 74114
2. If you are in the area and/or can possibly make it, plan to stand in solidarity with Patricia on the date of her hearing. "She in on the April docket but we don't have a specific date and time yet," posts the Parole for Spottedcrow! event on Facebook. "When it is set we will plan accordingly.
"Please help get Patricia FREE! The time is now. We need your help. Spread the word, spread the love."