Appeals court tosses Jackson County meth sentence

Published: Friday, November 29, 2013 at 10:57 AM.

She was charged with attempting to manufacture a controlled substance, possession of a listed chemical and arson of an occupied structure. Her boyfriend faced similar charges, and they were both offered similar plea deals: a year in the county jail followed by several years of probation. Her boyfriend took the deal.

Baxter accepted the deal too, and Wright sentenced her as he said he would, but she withdrew her plea before the end of the hearing. Wright warned her she faced a possible maximum sentence of 50 years if she went to trial. Baxter said she understood.

“It’s withdrawn. Set it for trial,” Wright said. “There ain’t no more talking.”

That day, Baxter left the courthouse and threw up while her public defender talked with Wright. She wanted to take the deal, the attorney said, but Wright decided not to go with through with another hearing that day because Baxter was ill.

The next day, Baxter returned to court and apologized, saying she had been nervous. At some point that day, Wright told her attorney he’d changed his mind and wouldn’t accept the plea. Baxter was eventually convicted by a jury. Her sentence was 20 times greater than her boyfriend’s.

Throughout negotiations, Wright made off-the-record comments to attorneys that “cops didn’t like” the deal Baxter was being offered, and that the offer had been extended for the benefit of Baxter’s public defender, the court said.

The 1st DCA found that Wright’s eventual decision that everyone should just do their jobs was commendable.

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