In October of 2010, Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow, a 25-year old Cheyenne woman with four young children, was sentenced to 12 years in an Oklahoma prison for selling $31 worth of marijuana. The case gained national media attention due to the long sentence given for a crime that is usually handled with a fine or probation. On Monday, October 3, Spottedcrow’s sentence was modified to an eight-year sentence.
“We are not pleased with the total outcome,” Spottedcrow’s attorney, Josh Welch, said. “We’re pleased that the judge considered a modification and granted part of it, but we are not pleased that it was only four years cut off of her prison sentence.”
In December 2009, Spottedcrow’s mother, Delita Starr, sold an $11 “dime bag” of marijuana to a police informant in her home in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Starr asked her 9-year-old grandson, Spottedcrow’s son, for dollar bills for change.
Two weeks later the informant came back and bought $20 worth of marijuana from Spottedcrow.
Starr and Spottedcrow were both arrested and charged with felony counts for distribution and possession of a dangerous substance in the presence of a minor. Starr received 30 years of probation with no jail time, but Spottedcrow was sentenced to 10 years in prison for distribution and 2 years for possession, running concurrently with no parole. The extra 2 years were tagged on because Spottedcrow had marijuana in her jacket when she was unexpectedly taken to jail after her trial.
“I can’t wrap my head around how someone gets this much prison time for marijuana, whether kids are around it or not,” Welch said. “I think we all agree there are certain offenses that require the incarceration of individuals, but this is not one of them. I’ve often said this was a case that cried out for help. Patricia has four kids, and she had her first child at age 16. She had a very rough and difficult childhood. This is a prime example where the courts could have helped her instead of acting punitively and solely focusing on punishing her.”
Welch noted that, in light of the modified sentence, Spottedcrow will be up for parole sometime late next year or early 2013. He will file an application for post-conviction release in Kingfisher County, which will attack her conviction based on different legal grounds. He expects the application to be denied within the next 30 days, and then he will file an appeal in the court of criminal appeals. He hopes the appellate process will only take 6 to 8 months.
Spottedcrow worked a certified nursing assistant and certified medical assistant before her arrest, but she will not be able to continue to work in those fields once she is released due to her conviction. She is also the mother of four young children who are currently staying with Starr.
In an interview a few months before her death, the sentencing Judge, the late Susie Pritchett, maintained that she thought the sentence was lenient because she allowed Starr to remain free to look after the children.