You can have the perfect client with no criminal history, excellent family support, a re-entry plan that is well thought out and appropriate. But without genuine and convincing remorse, none of these factors will matter.

Remorse is described as deep regret or guilt for a wrong committed. But in a courtroom, who defines remorse? The Prosecutor could define it as being so altered by the commission of the crime that the defendant attempts suicide. Nothing short of attempted suicide will matter to the prosecution. The Defense could define it as being genuinely sorry and apologetic. But is that enough? The judge may have a different view of remorse. So how do we express remorse in a sincere and yet effective way?

My preference is to have the defendant write out the expression of remorse and use as many details as possible. “ I’m sorry I participated in a carjacking” is not enough. However, this written remorse statement makes a huge impact. “I can’t believe I participated in anything so violent. I’ll never forget the screams of the victim or her little daughter’s face. They were terrified, and I am responsible for that. At the time, I was high and looking for more drugs, and I can’t believe I committed this horrible crime. I wish I could take it back. I’ll never forget their faces. They thought they were going to die, and I caused that. I am to blame for their fear now. I caused two human beings to be afraid of getting in a car. I caused them to worry about their safety, and I threatened them to the point that they thought they were going to die. I pointed a knife at them, and they believed me. At that moment, I didn’t care. I was just thinking about the next score. I was a monster, and I acted like one. I can never take it back, and I am so very sorry. I have a sister and a niece, and I can’t imagine this happening to them. I am so very, very sorry.” This is what remorse should look like on paper.

It can take months to work through remorse with a defendant. Depending on their background and ability to understand cause and effect, getting to genuine remorse can be difficult and time-consuming. Many hate to relive the crime and have pushed their shame and memories of their crime so far down it’s difficult to revive. However, mitigation without remorse is useless. A report that doesn’t include remorse may give a judge a better understanding of the defendant, but without remorse, there is no foundation in which to receive the information. It’s just fluff. Remorse is pivotal to sentencing and must be included in any mitigation report. It is infuriating for an experienced mitigation specialist to see longer sentences given, all because there was not an effective remorse statement.

If you need a mitigation specialist that understands and can obtain an effective remorse statement from your client to lessen their sentence, please call the Downward Departure Specialists at 916-224-4680. We are experts and here to help.