WORTHINGTON -- Despite requests by her attorney and her mother for a shorter prison term, Lisa Marie Shane was sentenced Friday to 15 years incarceration in a state facility by Judge David Christensen in Nobles County District Court.
Shane, convicted of second-degree murder in April for the 2004 death of her 3-month-old daughter Ashanta, fought back tears even as she entered the courtroom dressed in blaze orange -- the clothing of a Nobles County Jail inmate -- on Friday morning.
"This is a great tragedy for everybody," Chief Public Defender James Fleming said of the sentence handed own. "She is remorseful, she is still grieving. She never admitted or agreed that she assaulted the child and caused those injuries."
Law enforcement personnel from several agencies were on hand to watch the proceedings, along with friends and family of Shane and others. Deputies passed a metal detector wand over each person before they were allowed to enter the courtroom.
Fleming asked the court for a downward departure on the presumptive sentence based on Shane's age, lack of education and several other factors.
"Adults struggle to understand younger person and the decisions they make," Fleming told the judge. "It is all about brain development."
Assistant Attorney General William Klumpp responded by telling Christensen there was nothing to indicate Shane was anything less than responsible.
"Most 14- or 15-year-old babysitters would have been far better at responding to the distress Ashanta was experiencing," he said.
Klumpp revealed Shane had tested positively for the presence of marijuana when one of her children was born, as well as when she was remanded to the Nobles County Jail after her conviction in April -- even though she testified in court that she didn't do drugs. He also said she was a member of a gang known as the Latin Queens, that she bore gang tattoos and that there were charges pending against her for flashing a gang sign and threatening someone with assault.
Fleming objected to Klumpp's comments, saying she had not been convicted for any of those things.
"You are attacking her character and not speaking to the facts," Fleming added.
The judge denied the downward departure, referring to Shane as a relatively sophisticated person with four children by the age of 19.
"The first child would have been an education, the second even more so," Christensen said. "I can't understand the third and fourth."
Shane's mother, Pam Shane, was allowed to testify on her behalf, and said she loved her daughter and grandchildren very much.
"My daughter suffered greatly through the death of this child ... her children were taken from us," she said. "We weren't even allowed to say goodbye."
Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore read a letter from Jose Chavarria, Ashanta's father.
Chavarria referred to the child as his "innocent little angel" and wrote he had to deal with the loss of his daughter, "along with the lies and accusations against me." Christensen later said he did not take Chavarria's letter into consideration at all when he pronounced Shane's sentence.
"He has his own problems," the judge said.
When asked if she had anything to say before the judge pronounced sentence, Shane indicated she did.
"I'm really scared of what my life is going to be," she said. "I'm scared of what the lives of my children are going to be."
Christensen also spoke of what he knew of Shane's life.
"Is society at fault?" he asked. "What kind of sex education did she get?"
He commented on Shane's family life, saying he had heard cases about family members and described her household growing up as dysfunctional. He mentioned her extensive juvenile record, her defiant personality and the 1999 recommendation that she go through psychotherapy and anger management classes.
"Had the defendant followed through on those recommendations, we might not be here today," he added.
Shane will serve 10 years in prison and the last five years on supervised release. If there are any problems in prison, she may be required to serve the entire 15 years incarcerated.
"Although not a time for celebration, today's sentence was justice for Ashanta," Moore said in a prepared statement. "The court's sentence is just and appropriate given the unfortunate facts of the case. The court's decision to give Ms. Shane 30 months in prison beyond the presumptive sentence reflects both the seriousness of the case and the vulnerability of Ashanta at the time of the incident."