Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommends early parole for Spottedcrow, sentenced for selling $31 worth of marijuana
BY CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writer
Thursday, April 19, 2012
4/19/12 at 7:41 AM
Watch a video of Patricia Spottedcrow discussing life in prison, and read stories from our Women in Prison series.
OKLAHOMA CITY - Grassroots support may evolve into early parole for a Kingfisher mother who was handed a strict prison sentence for a first-time offense of selling $31 worth of marijuana.
Oklahoma's Pardon and Parole Board unanimously voted Wednesday to recommend parole for Patricia Spottedcrow, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence for selling marijuana to a police informant in Kingfisher County in 2009.
Spottedcrow, 26, was originally handed a 12-year sentence in a blind plea before a judge.
After her story was published in the Tulsa World's series on Women in Prison in 2011, a groundswell of support emerged. In October, a Kingfisher County judge reduced her sentence by four years.
Spottedcrow's advocates expressed concern for possible racial bias, disparate sentences for drug crimes, Oklahoma's No. 1 female incarceration rate per capita and the effects on children growing up with incarcerated parents.
Because children were in Spottedcrow's home when she was arrested, a charge of possession of a dangerous substance in the presence of a minor was added. Her mother, Delita Starr, was also charged with the crime but was given a 30-year suspended sentence so she could care for Spottedcrow's four children while their mother was incarcerated.
Board member Marc Dreyer, senior pastor at Tulsa's Memorial Baptist Church, was instrumental in getting Spottedcrow's case early consideration.
He said he requested to meet Spottedcrow while visiting Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft a few months ago, after reading about her case in the Tulsa World.
"Based on quantity of drugs involved and the desperation of her situation at the time, it was my view that she ought to have consideration by the board for parole, as there were some extenuating circumstances," Dreyer said. He requested that her case be moved to the board's April hearing.
Her attorney, Josh Welch, and mother spoke to the board Wednesday about why Spottedcrow deserved parole, especially so she could raise her children, who are 2, 4, 5 and 10 years old. Starr told the board of her struggle to care for her grandchildren while making $8 an hour at the truck stop where she works.
Spottedcrow took responsibility for her crime and told the board that things in her life at the time of her arrest were spiraling out of control, and prison may have saved her life, Dreyer said.
"I think the board just sensed that Ms. Spottedcrow had really learned her lesson," he said. "She had a real wake-up call from having a pretty significant slap on the wrist for this crime, and she deserved an opportunity to prove she was rehabilitated."
The board recommended her parole with the conditions of substance abuse treatment and counseling. Now that recommendation goes before Gov. Mary Fallin, who has 30 days to approve or deny it under Oklahoma law.
Laura Deskin, an attorney working with Welch on Spottedcrow's case, said if Fallin approves the parole, it could be as many as 120 days until Spottedcrow is released from prison.
Spottedcrow's original 12-year sentence was "extraordinarily harsh" and "excessive" for someone with no previous criminal record, Deskin said.
"Oklahoma benefits more from her being out (of prison)," Deskin said. "I'm sure that the board felt that the whole family was better served by her being out. She wants an education, to go to college. She's smart and a hard worker. She just made a really poor choice."
Original Print Headline: Kingfisher mother could get parole
Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477
Patricia Spottedcrow waits inside Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center on the first day of her incarceration at the facility. ADAM WISNESKI/Tulsa World file