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Sentence reviewed in child's death

December 06, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

It has been 17 years since Richard White's former wife was convicted of murder in their daughter Brandy White's death.

Friday, he testified in a Washington County Circuit Court hearing that Donna White, 44, should remain in prison for life.

"A beautiful little girl is gone," Richard White, 47, said at the hearing to review the woman's sentence. "I don't think that Donna deserves a second chance. Not ever."

In October 1986 Donna White and Bruce Sarver were sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in connection to the beating death of Brandy White, who was 4 years old at the time.

Because White's defense lawyer at the time did not make certain requests, a judge recently granted the three-judge panel review of her sentence, which began Friday.

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Donna White and Sarver's trials were moved from Garrett County to Washington County. Both were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Witnesses testified that the two beat the girl in their Swanton, Md., home over the course of several days after she hid a wallet containing about $700 worth of money orders and food stamps, according to court documents.

Brandy White was taken to the hospital May 18, 1986, and died 11 days later, according to court records.

A psychologist and friends of Donna White's also testified Friday. The psychologist said White still suffers from mental disorders received when she was a child.

Donna White is being held at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, Md. She said in court Friday she hopes to help battered women if she is released, and her life has improved since she has been in prison.

"Time has helped. ... I don't have to escape it no more ... and I'm really sorry," she said. "I know now that I'm a better person than when I was on the street."

Friday's hearing was the result of recent efforts on Donna White's behalf to reduce her sentence and possibly gain a new trial.

Washington County Circuit judges Frederick C. Wright and John H. McDowell heard arguments and testimony Friday. An audio tape of Friday's proceedings will be forwarded to Allegany County Circuit Judge Gary G. Leasure, who was not present Friday.

According to Maryland judicial rules, the three-judge panel can increase, reduce or leave a sentence unchanged. The judges will likely make their decision sometime after Jan. 1, Wright said.

White's attorney Thomas A. Kennedy argued Friday that her psychological disorders should be considered in her sentence.

Donna White "was a victim herself for many, many years. ... Had she been able to, she would have done something" to help Brandy, Kennedy said.

After citing trial testimony from doctors about her manner of death, Assistant Garrett County State's Attorney Barry R. Levine said life is an appropriate sentence.

"This was a horrific case. ... She is, for the purposes of this hearing, a guilty participant, and guilty of murder in the first degree."

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