INDIANAPOLIS | It was wrong to sentence Engelica Castillo to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of her 2-year-old cousin, Jada Justice, because Castillo's co-defendant likely will receive a much shorter prison term.
That's the argument Castillo's attorney, Marce Gonzalez Jr., made to the Indiana Supreme Court on Monday in seeking a reduced sentence for the now 21-year-old Hobart woman.
Gonzalez said it's a breach of "fundamental fairness" that Castillo should die in prison while co-defendant Timothy Tkachik may serve as few as 10 years for their shared actions in beating Justice, encasing her body in concrete and dumping the toddler in a LaPorte County swamp in June 2009.
"A person is hard-pressed to say there is not equal responsibility in this case," Gonzalez said in urging the state's high court to revise Castillo's sentence to 60 years.
Tkachik faces 20 to 50 years in prison, which could be cut in half with good behavior, after cooperating with authorities and testifying against Castillo.
Several justices did not seem persuaded by Gonzalez's claim of disproportionality.
Chief Justice Randall Shepard got no answer when he repeatedly asked Gonzalez whether the court ever has said different defendants convicted of the same crime are entitled to identical sentences.
Justice Brent Dickson, who grew up in Hobart, asked whether there were any circumstances that would justify different sentences for Castillo and Tkachik.
Gonzalez admitted Castillo refused to assist authorities and that it was Tkachik, her then-boyfriend, who told police where to find Justice's body.
"My client, for whatever 18-year-old perverse reason, thought she was in love and wasn't going to flip on Mr. Tkachik," Gonzalez said.
Prosecutors said Castillo's life sentence is appropriate given her character and the nature of the crime and urged the court to uphold the Lake County jury's sentencing decision.
A ruling by the five-member Supreme Court is expected early next year.