The mother of a 9-week-old baby is pleading to stay out of prison after an Idaho Court of Appeals ruling that a Kootenai County judge didn’t have the legal authority to place her on probation.
After 18 months on probation and two years of sobriety, recovering meth addict Kendra Goodrick, of Hayden, faces returning to prison soon to finish her sentence for felony drug charges.
“I’m going to miss out on so many firsts,” she said as she cradled her son Jameson in her arms. “His first words. His first steps. Everything.”
Goodrick, 29, said she never thought she’d be headed back to prison after 1st District Judge John Mitchell placed her on probation in January 2006. The Court of Appeals decision was a devastating blow, she said.
Goodrick is a model of success, according to the attorneys and counselors who have worked with her. She married her longtime boyfriend on March 31 and gave birth to her first child April 10.
“I’ve come so far, and I’ve done everything they’ve requested me to do,” she said. “And then some.”
She said her son has given her all the more reason to stay clean and continue working to turn her life around.
“It just seems like the system worked for me in this case and now, because of a loophole in the law, it’s going to get taken away,” Goodrick said.
Goodrick will be in prison in Southern Idaho for at least six months before she will get a hearing before the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole. Kootenai County defense attorneys say it may even be longer before she has the opportunity to plead for release.
There’s no consideration given to mothers of newborn babies or nursing mothers such as Goodrick, said Olivia Craven, executive director of the Idaho Commission for Pardons and Parole.
“There are a lot of women that come in with babies,” Craven said. “There are a lot of women that come in pregnant. We have to treat everyone the same.”
Not even the governor, whom Goodrick has written, could speed the process along, Craven said.
Prosecutors appealed the case to the state Court of Appeals on the grounds that Mitchell acted outside his authority when he gave Goodrick probation.
It’s not the first time the appeals court has ruled Mitchell made decisions in cases no longer under his jurisdiction. And Goodrick’s not the first defendant placed on probation by Mitchell who has had to return to prison after months of freedom.
Two convicted sex offenders returned to prison nearly two years after Mitchell ordered their release, again because the judge had ordered probation after his jurisdiction had expired.
Mitchell declined to comment on Goodrick’s case or the prior cases that were reversed.
“I can’t really comment,” he said. “It’s a pending case.”
Kootenai County Chief Deputy Public Defender Lynn Nelson said he understands the lack of jurisdiction ruling but added “it just seems unjust.”
“This lady had done remarkably well,” Nelson said. “We’re taking someone who’s dealing with a problem they haven’t dealt with before and making a remarkable turnaround, and now we’re looking at sending them to prison. It just seems like an awful waste of resources.”
The judge has a reputation for giving defendants second chances and favoring rehabilitation over incarceration for addicts. His philosophy on treatment versus incarceration was an issue in his contentious bid for re-election in 2006.
Goodrick said she’s grateful for the interest Mitchell took in her case and for giving her a second chance.
He sentenced her to at least four years in prison in February 2004 and retained jurisdiction in the case. Through retained jurisdiction, judges can impose a sentence and bring the defendant back before the court within 180 days to reconsider the sentence and possibly grant probation.
About six months after sentencing Goodrick, Mitchell placed her on probation.
While on probation the first time, Goodrick went back to using meth. Mitchell revoked her probation in June 2005 but also cut her sentence in half to two years. The judge encouraged Goodrick to participate in a prison therapy program to treat her addiction.
Three months into the sentence, Goodrick had not yet been admitted into the treatment program. Her attorney filed a motion in September 2005 asking Mitchell to reconsider her sentence. That motion, called a Rule 35, was one issue in the appeals case.
The Idaho attorney general’s office, which handled the appeal, argued that Mitchell was out of line for conducting an “independent investigation” in Goodrick’s case. The judge had called the Idaho Department of Correction and learned that Goodrick was a low priority for the treatment program, according to the appeals court.
While motions are typically decided after a hearing with input from the prosecutor handling the case, Mitchell placed Goodrick on probation in January 2006 without a hearing or an opportunity for the prosecution to object.
The attorney general also appealed the case because the Rule 35 motion was filed long after the deadline. The appeals court agreed.
Kootenai County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Marty Raap said the issue of jurisdiction is a clear one. His office asked the Idaho attorney general’s office to appeal.
If the motion for reconsideration had been brought before the court for a hearing, Raap said he likely would have objected at that time. It wasn’t until after Mitchell granted the motion that the prosecutor’s office learned Goodrick was placed on probation.
While the appeal was pending, Goodrick made drastic changes in her life.
The repeat offender has earned kudos from her friends, family and attorneys.
She got a full-time job at a local call center while on probation but took leave once Jameson was born. She and husband Tony Martinez attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
Goodrick spends her days cooing over her son, whose nursery is decorated with firetrucks and Dalmatians. She also volunteers to walk dogs at the Kootenai Humane Society shelter.
Having been to prison before, Goodrick said she knows what to expect. There are crime and drugs inside the prison walls, she said. “Being exposed to that faction of society again is not something I can look forward to.”
She’s awaiting orders from the appeals court and expects she’ll return to prison once the paperwork is complete, possibly within weeks.
Meanwhile, the family is preparing for the inevitable. Child care will be a problem. The family is struggling on the sole income from Martinez, who works graveyard shifts as a refrigeration technician. He often travels out of town for work.
Goodrick is concerned they won’t be able to keep the lease on their modest rental home. She’s worried about the nutrients and antibodies her son will be denied through breastfeeding. She’s stressed about not having him close to her at night.
“The judge let her out because he had faith in her,” her husband said. “She didn’t want to let him down, and she hasn’t.”
Public Defender Val Siegel has filed a motion in Goodrick’s case, hoping the time she spent on supervised probation can be credited toward her sentence. A hearing is set for July 19. But that won’t put her before the Commission of Pardons and Parole any sooner.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to send her to prison at this point,” Siegel said, “but it looks like that’s what is going to happen. It’s very unfortunate. It’s hard to see how justice is served by this outcome.”