PORTLAND, Ind. — A state appeals court overruled a western Indiana judge and ordered him to expunge a woman’s convictions despite his disgust for her crimes.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled last week that Jay Circuit Judge Brian Hutchison must expunge the convictions of Mindy McCowan of Dunkirk for forgery in 2003 and for dealing methamphetamine in 2004.

Hutchison declined to expunge the convictions last Nov. 13, telling the woman during a hearing a day earlier, “I don’t have any fond memories of you … (and) your criminal behavior.”

“I have (to) deal with meth and heroin every damn day here, and I’ve — I’ve had a belly full. I’m not doing favors for people who are causing these problems in Jay County,” Hutchinson told her last fall, The (Muncie) Star Press reported Sunday (http://tspne.ws/2cisTXd ).

In its 2-1 ruling, the appeals court said “the trial court abused its discretion,” adding that “all evidence presented … mitigate toward expungement.”

The ruling noted McCowan, 35, was released from prison in 2007 and completed probation in 2010. She has consistently held a job and earned an associate’s degree in business administration and professional certifications, but lost her job when her employers learned of her criminal record. The prosecutor provided no argument against expungement.

In the majority opinion, Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote that Hutchison’s “articulation of (his) evaluative process to be particularly troubling.”

“Undeniably, methamphetamine and other illicit drugs are a burden on communities and judicial resources,” Bailey said. “That said, our legislature has provided a second chance for individuals who have in the distant past committed drug-related crimes. Although the trial court is granted discretion, this does not extend to disregard of remedial measures enacted by our lawmakers.”

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Michael Barnes said he believed Hutchison was “within discretionary parameters” when he denied the expungement request, but acknowledged Hutchison’s commentary was “not exactly artful, and unnecessarily harsh.”

Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com

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