Anastazia Schmid Released After Winning Appeal, in Need of Re-entry Support!

Ana was incarcerated for 18 years on a wrongful conviction. She won her appeal in February and has now been released. Help ensure she has funds for a smooth transition to return to her loved ones.

Ana has won her appeal and has been released from custody. She is now facing the financial struggles of reentering society after being separating from her family, community, and opportunities for work for nearly two decades. Help us collect re-entry funds for Anastazia so that she may return to her family and community safely, with some relief from the years of danger and violence she has faced from the prison system: Donate here!

Background on Anastazia's case:

Anastazia Schmid has spent nearly 18 years behind bars for killing her abusive partner, Tony Heathcote. For three and a half years, Tony subjected Ana and her loved ones to pervasive physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. This abuse often took place in full view of others, including acquaintances, family, and law enforcement officers.

In 2001, Ana was informed for the first time that Tony had sexually abused her 6-year-old daughter. She committed her crime two days later, in a dissociative state. She was arrested and charged with seven counts, including murder.

At the time of her arrest, Ana was a business owner and a phlebotomist at a local hospital. She had no prior criminal convictions. She did have a history of psychiatric hospitalizations from a young age, as a result of childhood and adolescent traumas, and took psychiatric medication.

While detained in county jail, Ana suffered physical abuse by police and was held in severely overcrowded cells. In these conditions, Ana’s mental state worsened. She was found incompetent to stand trial, and was transferred to the Evansville State Hospital. There, Ana was prescribed increasingly stronger and more complex doses of psychotropic medications.

By the time Ana returned to jail, she was taking upwards of 15 such medications, and was in a state that she now describes as “chemical lobotomy.”

“I would urinate on myself, sometimes 5 or more times a day. Whoever my cellmates were in the county jail, they would constantly have to call the guards to get me new clean scrubs. Another woman in the cell with me would often have to lift my head and shovel food in my mouth, waking me repeatedly to remind me to chew and swallow.”

Ana also experienced delusions and paranoia. “The nightmares were hellish. At times I was convinced my partner was hiding somewhere in the jail stalking me, waiting for the opportune time to attack me again.” She would later learn that, when prescribed in those dosages and combinations, psychotropic medications can worsen symptoms of psychosis.

Despite these symptoms, Ana was re-evaluated and found competent to stand trial. During her 10 months of pretrial detention, her mental health deteriorated further, culminating in an emergency return to the hospital just two weeks before trial. Ana would continue to experience delusions and paranoia throughout the 6-day proceeding. She would only understand what had occurred many years later, including the implications of her attorneys’ choice of the usually unsuccessful insanity defense and the extent to which the history surrounding her crime was suppressed. She would later learn that prosecutors successfully moved to exclude evidence of prior bad acts by her abusive partner, and that her own attorney had moved to exclude evidence of her partner’s sexual abuse of her daughter. This was done at the request of Ana’s mother, who paid for her defense, and wished to avoid this disclosure in court.

Ana was found “guilty, but mentally ill” on all counts. She was sentenced to 55 years in the Department of Corrections, with a 25-year minimum, and 5 years on parole.

Shortly thereafter, Ana entered the Indiana Women’s Prison’s special needs unit. Many of her strongest medications were discontinued, due to prison rules against narcotics. A doctor would later tell Ana that her transfer to prison likely saved her life. In the short term, however, Ana suffered withdrawal and another mental breakdown. She slipped into a depression. “I had lost everything, including control of my body and mind; was facing what basically equates to a life sentence in prison; was trapped on a unit full of human throw-away zombies…”

In Christmas of 2002, Ana was prepared to commit suicide. “That final moment before taking the leap into oblivion I was struck by a profound spiritual enlightenment…I was unsure what to do next, but I knew there was something more I was meant to do. I had another emotional breakdown and surrendered in prayer. The next morning would be the beginning of my road to healing and recovery, this time taking the task into my own hands.”

During the years since her conviction, Ana has taken this road, completing every rehabilitative program available to her in Indiana prisons. She enrolled in college and vocational classes, conducted research into the history of women’s prisons (writing an article about this, “Crafting the Perfect Woman,” for the first issue Abolition journal, of which she is now a member of the collective), and served as an assistant art therapist and spiritual adviser to other women who have experienced abuse. Beyond being a mentor to scores of women in prison, Ana is also a playwright, artist, yoga instructor, and a brilliant independent scholar (winner of the American Studies Association’s Gloria Anzaldua Award for outstanding independent scholar, and presenter at academic conferences including the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, and the American Studies Association, etc.). Along the way, Ana has had to struggle for the most basic forms of control over her own life, from the right to discontinue debilitating anti-psychotic tranquilizers prescribed by prison doctors, to the right to pursue education as a member of the special needs unit, to the right to access information about her own legal and medical history.

In the years since her conviction, Ana has pursued multiple appeals in Indiana courts. At many crucial junctures, Ana found herself without legal representation; she therefore had no option but to discover and carry out the next steps herself. Despite repeated requests to state courts and her attorneys, Ana was denied access to her own legal records. She was only able to obtain her full legal and medical records with the help of her family and a supportive prison counselor, almost 13 years after her trial. By this time, Ana had missed a deadline for filing a habeas corpus petition in federal court.

Using a jailhouse manual and the help of other incarcerated women, Ana wrote and filed her petition with the federal District Court. She requested that the court waive the deadline, due to extraordinary circumstances. Throughout, she struggled with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by reviewing her case. Many months and many filings later, the District Court rejected Ana’s petition based solely on the missed deadline. Ana submitted yet another appeal.

Months later, Ana received good news from the US Court of Appeals. The court had granted her appeal and assigned her pro bono representation. She was the first incarcerated woman with a case heard by the high court in many years. The court remanded her case to the District Court. Ana will now have the opportunity to argue that justice should prevail over an arbitrary deadline.

“My case will be heard on these grounds on February 15, 2019. I will either be one more person who will never see justice, forced to serve out a wrongful conviction solely because I missed a calendar date, or, I will be the one to go forth, hopefully to change something, not only for myself, but for thousands of others who are in this position, or who someday will be if someone (like me) doesn’t take a stand. Help make the change with me.”

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