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  #26  
Old 03-27-2017, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Marseille View Post
A letter from the convicted's mom or girlfriend or child will probably be biased and the judge is likely to assume that.
Those letters are also important, though. Simply put, in sentencing, if the judge has discretion and there are factors in mitigation, knowing that the convicted has a support group of friends and family members can be key in setting a sentence given those who have a larger, healthy support group are generally also less likely to reoffend. It doesn't always work that way (depends in part on the crime) but it can go a long way in some cases where the judge might otherwise be on the fence, particularly if the crime is non-violent. Judges tend to not like to separate families so that can have some bearing.
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  #27  
Old 10-09-2017, 07:05 PM
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Here's a Federal judge talking about what he likes and hates in pre-sentencing letters.

https://blog.simplejustice.us/2017/1...rt/#more-34598

There's a lot more, but this excerpt covers the key points.

Quote:
So here are my bullet points to separate good letters from poor and unhelpful ones. The letter should:
  • explain how, and how long, the person knows the offender
  • describe the qualities of the offender that the writer wants me to consider, with personal examples
  • acknowledge the offender’s wrongdoing (unless the offender is maintaining their innocence on appeal) and why they still have a positive view of the offender
  • discuss reasons for leniency with examples, e.g. her community service; his multiple tours of duty in Enduring Freedom
  • be factual where possible, giving reasons for mercy and not just a blanket plea for mercy (I already know the offender wants as little time as possible)
  • provide a factual basis for genuine remorse – if that exists
  • provide a factual basis for a plan when the offender is released on TSR (actually I have never received this kind of letter)
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  #28  
Old 10-17-2017, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Minor activist View Post
Here's a Federal judge talking about what he likes and hates in pre-sentencing letters.

https://blog.simplejustice.us/2017/1...rt/#more-34598

There's a lot more, but this excerpt covers the key points.
Excellent piece. Very helpful. Good to get feedback on a task I've been helping people without much guidance.
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  #29  
Old 10-17-2017, 10:50 PM
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I have just finished working on a guide to making a parole packet. In it there is a section on writing character letters of support. This piece has some excellent suggestions that I might need to include in the guide. Thanks for sharing it.
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  #30  
Old 10-17-2017, 10:55 PM
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Don't send a letter like this unless you really mean it.

https://blog.simplejustice.us/wp-con...ing-Letter.jpg
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  #31  
Old 10-18-2017, 09:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Minor activist View Post
Don't send a letter like this unless you really mean it.

https://blog.simplejustice.us/wp-con...ing-Letter.jpg
This is why letters should always come to the lawyer representing the defendant and not sent to the judge directly.

It should be noted that such letters may be received by the judge from the victim and interested parties on the opposite side of the aisle. Some things you cannot control.
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  #32  
Old 10-21-2017, 08:14 AM
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I've helped collect thousands of letters for sentencings. In my experience, people find it very hard to write letters, worried that they could say the wrong thing, and often freeze without guidance.

I doubt too many people who don't mean it would be bothering.
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  #33  
Old 10-21-2017, 10:37 AM
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I've helped collect thousands of letters for sentencings. In my experience, people find it very hard to write letters, worried that they could say the wrong thing, and often freeze without guidance.

I doubt too many people who don't mean it would be bothering.
This is why I usually answer threads about writing letters for sentencing and parole. My father was able to write a letter for my brother in both instances (the first time, it becomes easier after that). My mom was a bundle of every worry that she could put together, all these memories of my brother growing up, all the hopes and fears she had for him, and it all had to come out through her pen. That pen can be a very small, crowded opening. To get it to flow, you need to start talking. You need to talk about memories and write bullet points that help you remember down. You need to talk about hopes and dreams, and write those bullet points. You need an outline of what should be included in terms of expectations and anecdotes, and then you need to write some bullet points that help you to remember the stuff that really has importance to you.

In short, you need to vomit up as much as you can orally and in bullet points.

By then, you will be tired. You need to walk away then. You need to let all those ideas and thoughts and emotions simmer on the back burner for a bit. Overnight is good. A week is better. Best to take your sheets, your encyclopedia of bullet points and bring it to the task with a clear (ish) head.

Then, you take the outline of what the letter should look like - the complete outline, from the opening paragraphs of, "my name is, and I life at...." through to, "thank you for your attention, Your Honor. I know you will use this information to come up with a just sentence for my loved one." And you need to plug in the best of your memories and anecdotes and hopes and personal knowledge to create a full picture of your loved one.

Some people can write a cracking wonderful letter with the aid of their emotion just right off the cuff. This is great.

Ma great many people get emotionally clogged up writing them. This sucks. But it can be a good thing for the writer, and not just the Defendant. Working through that emotional clog will help the writer deal with those emotions.

Look, a letter at its worst, and I'm not talking the example given by minoractivist, shows support for the defendant. It shows that there are people out there who care, so when he comes back into the community, he's not alone. There are people there, supporting him and helping him to live a better life.

In the middle is a letter that shows not only he's supported, but that his support has a good grasp of his issues, and can actually take action to make sure that the crime never happens again - a job waiting, housing waiting, loved ones going to al-anon.

A letter at its best shows not only that the person,s supported by support that can offer hep with a place to live, getting money in his pocket (to pay off fines, fees, and still have money in his pocket to buy food and take his kid to the park), etc, but it shows a depth of knowledge of the person such that the entire person is demonstrated. Anecdotes that show that the person is not all bad - his character, left to It's of devices, causes him to care about his neighbors, participate in the community, and is a good person at the core - "at the age of 5, I caught Johnny putting on his snow suit. When I asked him where he was going, thinking he was escaping to go sledding or something with the big kids, he surprised me by saying he was going next door to help daddy shovel Mrs. Newton's walk because Mrs. Newton wasn't getting around all that well these days." Stuff like that - stuff that can touch anybody's heart.

Writing those best letters, at least for many, is an arduous, heart wrenching process. I personally hate when people give up on writing those kinds of letters because they get too overwhelmed with everything.

The other big thing holding people back on writing letters of any kind is their history with school. Somebody criticized throughout their schooling on their ability to write is very apt to table the letter and just not write one. I have had an 80 year old WWII Purple Heart veteran look at me and tell me to write something, he'd sign his name because he wasn't good with his letters. The damage done by bad teachers can have far reaching impacts, including showing that people who do support a defendant, who can offer material support, and who do know their character down to the core are unable to write those letters because of the scars left by bad teachers.

If you know somebody who would like the court to know of their support who cannot write a letter, find a letter writer to sit with that person. Do it orally - Mr. smith, what do you want the court to know? How long have you known Johnny? What is your best memory of him? Walk through the outline with him, write it out, and have him read it over and sign only if he's happy with what it says.

And always respect the person who says they won't write a letter in support of "that no good such and such" or you'll wind up with a letter that will cause problems. Remember, not everybody has had such a good relationship with your loved one. They are entitled to their experiences and by showing their support of you and your family by maintaining their silence.
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  #34  
Old 10-25-2017, 08:20 AM
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A good attorney will also be familiar with which Judge's do take into account the character letters or not and how many they will read as well. My husband had a judge who was 80+ years old. His attorney, made sure to highlight certain of the character letters even though though the Judge was still provided all of them (which was a lot). The Judge actually made reference to reading them all (which was a little surprising) during the sentencing and made mention of some of the common threads about my husband in the letters. They can and do help. But like anything, you need to know your audience. Some people who we thought would write great letters, wrote terrible letters. Not that they were bad letters for my husband, they just didn't say anything of substance, or they were about themselves. Some people we didn't expect to write great letters, did. My husband did his best to ask people from all stages and aspects of his life. As they started to come in, I was fascinated to really see for myself (as the Judge saw) those common traits mentioned from people who didn't even know each other some from 30 years ago to people today.

There are sample letters out there. Family, friends, and business associates all wrote letters for him. My children wrote letters. I wrote a letter. Obviously we have a different point of view, but we can still tell the Judge about him and the wonderful step-father/husband he is. The Judge as we found out at sentencing, even got 1 bad character letter sent to him from my husband's ex-wife. That was a shocker from us and none to pleasant. But the best was when the Judge at the end actually said, he only got 1 bad letter and that there is obviously a history there and that he is going to take it for what it's worth and then mentioned all the positive things in all the other letters. His ex-wife who is a bitter ex-wife, came to court that day, and kind of looked like an idiot when she was basically called out for this, should have researched the Judge before she sent him anything as don't do something aggressive when you don't know what the person is going to do or how they will react. This judge has been divorced and he is remarried. He's been there. For all she knows, he has a crazy ex-wife too. Haha. My husband has been divorced for awhile and his ex-wife has just not move on (obviously). Anyway, back to point - the character letters do matter and can make a difference. Make sure you attorney does his/her job, knows what they can about your Judge, how the Judge perceives the letters and how he/she will use the letters. Get letters from everyone and anyone. Your attorney can always choose to not turn over certain letters. Our letters all were written to the Judge, but first returned to our attorney who then turned them over to the probation officer/judge. Also, if someone doesn't want to write a letter, then they won't.

It is worth it. Trust me! Private message me with questions.

Also, something to note. When my husband was first indicted and deciding when going to trial or not he had a different attorney. That attorney when asked about character witnessess/letters he mentioned only 3-5. When my husband decided to take a plea, we decided to change attorneys to find someone who specializes in sentencings. I am so happy we did that as we learned so much more and had much better advice. The sentencing lawyer, was much more informative and strongly advised us on not just getting 3-5 letters. Again, I am sure it made a huge difference as like I said, the Judge did comment that he read them all, and he was definitely able to get a picture of my husband that 3-5 letters never would have painted.
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  #35  
Old 10-28-2017, 03:20 AM
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Could I receive some advice/suggestions for the rough draft I have composed for my son's judge please??..

Your Honor Pulcher,
As stated afore, this letter is with regards to the above styled case where in the defendant ______, is my son. Your Honor, on behalf of my son and with his permission I/he first would like to acknowledge the family and send our deepest condolences.
Secondly, we humbly throw ourselves to the mercy of the court and respectfully ask that in lieu of the circumstances and events surrounding this case, ask that you show leniency towards _____.
Your Honor, I understand that there has been a lost of a life in this matter and understand in the name of Justice, something must be done. However, I ask that you allow the system to be a benefit for my son and this situation. A life lost can only be honored in memory or legacy. I understand my son will be incarcerated. I ask his youth and nonviolent criminal history be considered upon sentencing. I ask that during and upon his release, for the remainder of of his life, he be ordered to participate in anti-crime, anti-drug programs for youthful offenders and/or adults in treatment centers. Not only to help others from following the same destructive path but for himself as well.
My son is not unique in his situation. He has fought bipolar depression and drug addiction since his preteen years. His true character is that of a charismatic, caring, intelligent, hungry for knowledge individual.
Your Honor, my son has no prior violent criminal history. He actually loves to work and laugh. However, any setback or change of circumstance causes a mental break down, that makes him easily influenced/drawn towards negative thoughts, people, and influences. During these dark times he is easily manipulated. Especially if the offer of anti-anxiety, "downer", "mood-altering" pills is extended. When he consumes these types of drugs, he is literally not himself. His speech is incoherent, his movements are sluggish, etc. He cannot make coherent decisions and is easily left.
I know this case will dehumanize my son. The truth is, he is very human and he is in fact loved by many. But most importantly, he is loved by his Mother.
Your Honor, please... Please allow _____ a chance. Allow him the chance to return to society still young. Please allow him a chance to redeem himself and show the State of Texas he is a good human being, who made a devastating mistake. Allow him to prove he is/will be an upstanding citizen. Allow him to help himself and others to learn from his mistake and make better decisions.

Respectfully,

JM
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  #36  
Old 10-30-2017, 09:32 AM
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I dont know what to tell you but I did want to respond that I read your letter.
I hope he is given some mercy and gets some help with is addiction and mental health issues.
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  #37  
Old 10-30-2017, 11:18 AM
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I'm going to be a bit critical. Do not take this as a personal slight, but as an attempt to help you with your letter so you can get the best impact from your letter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmdivine View Post
Could I receive some advice/suggestions for the rough draft I have composed for my son's judge please??..

Your Honor Pulcher,
As stated afore, this letter is with regards to the above styled case where in the defendant ______, is my son.
This is your first paragraph. You haven't stated anything before this paragraph. And you are trying to sound legal. Don't sound legal. Write the way you talk. Turn it into something more along the lines of:

My name is xxx, I live at yyy (showing that you are a member of the community). My son, zzz, is the defendant in this case and I am writing on his behalf and in support of zzz, my son.


Quote:


Your Honor, on behalf of my son and with his permission I/he first would like to acknowledge the family and send our deepest condolences.
Skip the permission part. Good with the acknowledgement of the family and the offering up of condolences. This is where you would add your appreciation that there has been a loss of life and something to the effect that you appreciate the devastation the family must feel.

Quote:

Secondly, we humbly throw ourselves to the mercy of the court and respectfully ask that in lieu of the circumstances and events surrounding this case, ask that you show leniency towards _____.

condolences.
Your second paragraph starts with a plea for mercy. This is okay at this juncture. But, you are asking the judge to actually consider the circumstances and events surrounding the crime (admit it was a crime, not just a case, imho, as it shows that you appreciate what your son did was actually wrong, and not a technicality). You don't want him to skip over the entirety of the events and circumstances that led to a death. Re-write this. Do it in your own voice, as a parent pleading for your son.

Quote:

Your Honor, I understand that there has been a lost of a life in this matter and understand in the name of Justice, something must be done.
condolences.
Either "a life has been lost" or "a loss of life" skip "in this matter" as it adds nothing except an attempt to be legal in your speech. "Something must be done" is really wish-washy. You want to acknowledge that there should be consequences.
Quote:

However, I ask that you allow the system to be a benefit for my son and this situation. A life lost can only be honored in memory or legacy. I understand my son will be incarcerated. I ask his youth and nonviolent criminal history be considered upon sentencing. I ask that during and upon his release, for the remainder of of his life, he be ordered to participate in anti-crime, anti-drug programs for youthful offenders and/or adults in treatment centers. Not only to help others from following the same destructive path but for himself as well.

.
This is good. I'm not sure what your son is charged with, so the ability of the judge to sentence as such may be a factor. I would restate this a bit, especially if your son agrees with this sort of thing so that the judge can aid your son in pursuing these homages to his victim. Sort of an, "in thinking about how we'd like our son to be remembered if he were the victim of this crime, we, as a family and with the input of zzz, our son, came up with a few ideas for when he was released from prison. We would like our son's killer to honor and remember our son by...." sort of thing. Talk about how you came up with those suggestions and why you think they are adequate to help repair the damage caused by taking his victim out of the real of the living and subjecting the victim,s family to such pain of loss.

Quote:

My son is not unique in his situation. He has fought bipolar depression and drug addiction since his preteen years. His true character is that of a charismatic, caring, intelligent, hungry for knowledge individual.

The only thing I'd suggest writing here is adding, "when properly medicated" after "his true character". I'd also talk about his talents and what he wants to do with his life here.

Quote:


Your Honor, my son has no prior violent criminal history. He actually loves to work and laugh. However, any setback or change of circumstance causes a mental break down, that makes him easily influenced/drawn towards negative thoughts, people, and influences. During these dark times he is easily manipulated. Especially if the offer of anti-anxiety, "downer", "mood-altering" pills is extended. When he consumes these types of drugs, he is literally not himself. His speech is incoherent, his movements are sluggish, etc. He cannot make coherent decisions and is easily left.
This is good. Add a paragraph about how he intends to deal with setback and change and avoid drugs in the future. Before that paragraph, add one that addresses dealing with his response to having taken a life. How have you helped him deal with the impact of that so that he is able to take responsibility for his actions and not spiral further out of control, becoming even more of a danger to the community.

Quote:


I know this case will dehumanize my son.

Will? It already has. He has killed somebody. For a good deal of the population, he will never be seen as anything but a killer. This is sad, and the rest of your paragraph addresses this.

Quote:

The truth is, he is very human and he is in fact loved by many. But most importantly, he is loved by his Mother.

Here would be a good spot for a few concise anecdotes of your son as a human being - stuff that makes you love him all the more. Stuff that makes you proud of him as he walks his journey through this world.

Quote:

Your Honor, please... Please allow _____ a chance. Allow him the chance to return to society still young. Please allow him a chance to redeem himself and show the State of Texas he is a good human being, who made a devastating mistake. Allow him to prove he is/will be an upstanding citizen. Allow him to help himself and others to learn from his mistake and make better decisions.

Good.

Quote:

Respectfully,

JM
This is a very difficult letter to write. You have made a good start. Keep working.
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