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  #1  
Old 09-26-2005, 10:19 AM
NicknBree NicknBree is offline
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Default Character Letter to the Federal Judge

How many of you wrote a letter to the Judge regarding your loved one prior to sentencing? Our attorney suggested that it couldn't hurt although I'm not sure how much it will help. What did you include in your letter? Any ideas/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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  #2  
Old 09-26-2005, 01:33 PM
FreedomSeeker FreedomSeeker is offline
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Prior to Booker, such letters were a nice touch but judges have very little discretion is sentencing for it to matter much beyond where in the range to sentence. Post-Booker, I personally believe character letters are a must. With the increase in judicial discretion, the creation of a personality profile can only help.
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Old 09-26-2005, 02:22 PM
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I wrote a letter to the Judge prior to my wife's sentence and can tell you I am damn glad I did. Did it help? Who Knows. But I felt better for doing so.

As to the content... I suggest you keep it short and sweet and stick to the facts. As the spouse of a convicted felon.... you are expected to be in love and see only the best in you mate; however, if you can give example of community involvement and site reasons why your community is a better place with your convicted spouse there, instead being away, this may help. Wasting space saying things like "don't send them away because I love them" serves no purpose. Give specific examples of the good deeds you are involved in, church involvement, vollunteer groups, even self improvement programs like drug rehab, AA,... etc. Keep it short, keep it honest, and most of all...

Keep the Faith

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Old 09-26-2005, 04:50 PM
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We did lots of quality letters, the judge told us he read them all, they ranged from 1 - 3 pages each. He even said these letters ( held them up) made a big impact on my decison today. These letters told him the person he really was before drugs came in his life, and hopefully the person he will become again when this is all behind him, only better. I say DO IT, it can't hurt anything, the more the better, but get quality. A few close family members and a friend or two, former boss(es), co workers, preacher, respected people in the community that knew him well, we even had a former senator write a letter that actually wrote the "drug" laws for Mississippi, etc. . I wrote a long thread about this about a year ago.
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Old 09-26-2005, 05:57 PM
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I wrote a letter to the judge prior to my son's sentencing. I had to add my 2 cents. I wanted the judge to know what my son was like before all of this mess and to let the Court know that my son had people who cared about him, etc. I don't know if it mattered. I know the judge read the letter though.
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Old 09-26-2005, 06:06 PM
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Waste of time and paper...has no bearing on the issues or case.
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Old 09-26-2005, 06:31 PM
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Actually character letters can have a bearing on a decision by judge. It is not a waste of paper. It depends on the case.
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Old 09-26-2005, 07:05 PM
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It does have a bearing on the case, Cinammo is correct. It can make a perosn more "real" to the Court.
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Old 09-26-2005, 11:59 PM
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We feel that the letters sent to the judge before my husband's recent sentencing definitely helped! In our case, we also wanted our friends and family, who felt helpless through much of the process, be able to have a voice in the proceedings. When the time came to start collecting letters, we gave copies to the following to everyone concerned:

To our family and friends:

As most of you know, ***** has accepted a plea agreement on a federal charge. His sentencing will take place on September 22. The sentencing guidelines suggest *** years in a federal prison, which could be anywhere in the country. Hopefully, he will be allowed to self-surrender, which means he will not actually have to leave for 30 days after sentencing. If you don’t know the details of his case and would like more information, please ask. We will be happy to share.

Many of you have asked what you can do to help. We have replied that we will let you know when the time comes. Well, that time is now! Here is what we are asking of you:

1. First and foremost, please earnestly pray for the best possible resolution. God can and does work miracles! We also know that God has a plan for us and it might include ***** entering the “mission field” of a federal prison for a little while.

2. If you feel comfortable doing so, we ask that you write a letter to the federal judge who will be deciding his sentence. In this letter please describe your relationship to *****, what you know of the changes in his life, whether you consider him to be an asset to the community and anything else you feel is appropriate. This letter should be addressed to The Honorable ****Judge's Name****, U.S. District Judge. The letter can be sent directly to ****’s attorney, ****attorney's name and address**** or you may give it to us and we will send it to her. (In fact, we would love to see a copy of your letter if you feel comfortable sharing it with us.) The goal of your letter to the judge is for **** to receive the shortest possible sentence and to be allowed to self-surrender. Please note that ****’s full name is *****.

3. Continue to pray for and be emotionally supportive of our family if it is decided that **** spend time in prison. ***** will have his address and information on mail regulations. Every letter he receives while he is gone is a wonderful gift. This will be a very difficult time for our family. Knowing that we have your love and support will make a positive difference during our separation.

Please let us know if you have any thoughts or questions. We cannot thank you enough for the difference each of you has made in our life. We love and appreciate every one of you.

Sincerely,
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  #10  
Old 09-27-2005, 12:29 AM
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I agree with what has been said; character letters help a lot. I had a couple written for me and so did my baby. In both of our cases I believe it helped a lot.
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Old 09-27-2005, 12:49 AM
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This was really timely - thanks! Our son Michael goes for sentencing Oct 26. (Prayers requested and appreciated)
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Old 09-27-2005, 11:13 AM
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We had people write letters before my husband was sentenced and I do not believe it helped in his situation. In my opinion the judge had his mind made up before he even read the letters. That does not mean however that it might not help in other situations. I say write the letters, it certainly will not hurt. Good luck and May God Bless You and Your Family. Stay strong and keep praying. God does answer our prayers.
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Old 09-27-2005, 03:34 PM
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Whether or not character letters make a difference depends upon the judge solely - I agree with Anne, our judge had made up his mind before sentencing and I'm not sure he even read the letters. Same thing in my custody case...
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  #14  
Old 09-28-2005, 09:26 PM
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I had character letters written prior to my son's sentencing and the judge actually said " according to his character letters it seems to me this is a young man that has made some bad choices. I got letters fromhis high school coach, his professors in college my Pastor and friends and family. It does not hurt and when he recieves his PSI his character letters were attached and when my son read than he knew he was not alone. Keep praying and Remember God has a plan.


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Old 09-29-2005, 10:47 AM
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My family and I wrote quality letters to the judge and my son said the judge did say it helped him, but I guess its depends on the judge!
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Old 10-01-2005, 09:47 AM
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All this advice that has been offered is great. I would add 2 suggestions: Don't compare the case to any others (how somebody who did something worse got short time) and don't tell the judge what to do. They know why you are writing. Letters definitely can make a difference.
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Old 10-03-2005, 10:47 AM
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The judge never read the 50+ letters for my husband. She did hold them up and said they will be going in the packet to the appeallate court. I think it depends on the court AND the judge. I didn't want to write a letter but I felt better after I wrote it. I hope you aren't in Florida. Good luck!
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Old 10-03-2005, 01:48 PM
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freegene - you may have hit the nail on the head there. Sometimes writing the letter is the most therapeutic thing we can do - put down why you believe in your loved one and why others should as well. Even if the judge doesn't read it, it is reassuring to yourself and others who might.
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Old 10-04-2005, 04:55 PM
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I can tell you my Judge read and felt the letters from my friends family and associates were all warm and heartfelt- he was impressed with each of them and quoted from some. My lawyer however was an idiot and did not do enough to individualize me in his motions and responses- BOTH REALLY COUNT! Good luck and God bless.
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Old 10-06-2005, 11:29 PM
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Myself, along with Glenn's father and two sisters, along with a friend of mine wrote letters to the judge. At his sentencing, he made mention that he had read all the letters that had come in, and pointed out the one I had written, saying that he felt *sad* that I would also have to suffer for Glenn's actions. I'm not sure if all the letters as a whole helped, but they definetly didn't damage the situation either. I do think they could have been taken into more consideration, but who am I? Just be sure to elaborate on the GOOD things about the person, and keep going in that direction, and you surely can't go wrong
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Old 10-09-2005, 11:27 PM
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First of all, letters make a huge difference. The defendants own letter is extremely important. I believe the defendant should make themselves sound like they believe they are a piece of trash, appalled that they did something so "horrible." Many lawyers recommended such an attitude and it worked very well.

When collecting letters, I instructed each person to follow some directions then call my attorney. My attorney worked with each letter writer to edit their letters and tailor them for my judge. My attorney briefly explained to me a letter that made a big impact on a judge for a previous client. In this letter, the defendants mother writes to the judge and explains how he is a gentle and caring person (convicted of bank robbery, trying to counter act the violent image of a bank rober). She went on to tell a short story of how they were together on a road trip and he saw an accident on the side of the road where many people had already stopped. The defendant did not keep going assuming it was taken care of, he needed to be certain for himself and do anything he could to help, so he stopped and did just that. My attorney believes the more personal letters are like this, the more effective they will be. This story doesn't apply to your situation, but I am sure there are many that do.

With my request to each letter writer, I included the following memo:

1 LAW OFFICES OF
[edited out law firm and contact info]






M E M O R A N D U M




TO: ALL LETTER WRITERS
FROM: [edited out attorney name]
DATE: February 8, 2005
RE: [edited out my name]



THIS MEMO IS INTENDED TO SERVE AS A GUIDELINE FOR ALL PERSONS WRITING TO JUDGE [edited out judge name] ON BEHALF OF [edited out my name]. WHAT FOLLOWS IS MERELY A SUGGESTION AND NOT INTENDED AS A FORM. YOU SHOULD BE AWARE THAT THE MORE A LETTER DISCUSSES [edited out my name]’S UNIQUE QUALITIES AND YOUR INDIVIDUAL KNOWLEDGE OF HIM, THE MORE VALUABLE IT WILL BE.
LETTERS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED BUT NOT SENT TO:
[edited out judge's name]
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
[edited out district and address]

ALL LETTERS SHOULD BE DELIVERED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE DIRECTLY TO:

[edited out attorney's name and address]


THE LETTERS SHOULD CONTAIN THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION:


First ¶ INTRODUCE YOURSELF, GIVING A BRIEF STATEMENT OF WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU DO.


Second ¶ TELL GENERALLY HOW YOU BECAME ACQUAINTED WITH [edited out my name], HOW LONG YOU HAVE KNOWN HIM AND IN WHAT CAPACITY.


Third ¶ RELATE ANY PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCES RELATING TO THE MANNER IN WHICH HE TAKES RESPONSIBILITY FOR AND/OR CARES FOR OTHERS. SPECIFIC FIRST HAND EXAMPLES YOU MAY BE ABLE TO OFFER ARE THE BEST, INCLUDING EXAMPLES OF SELFLESSNESS, COMPASSION, CHARITYABLENESS AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY


Fourth ¶ RELATE THAT YOU ARE AWARE THAT HE WAS CHARGED WITH AND HAS PLEAD GUILTY TO A CRIME. RELATE HOW THIS CASE HAS IMPACTED UPON HIM AND ASK THAT THE COURT EXERCISE LENIENCY ON HIS BEHALF.


REMEMBER [edited out my name] HAS ALREADY PLED GUILTY TO THE OFFENSE FOR WHICH HE IS CHARGED AND IS BEING GIVEN CONSIDERATION FOR ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS ACTIONS. PLEASE DO NOT IN ANY WAY CLAIM [edited out my name] IS NOT GUILTY OR COULDN’T BE GUILTY OF THE OFFENSE WHICH HE IS BEING SENTENCED. THIS WILL ONLY SERVE TO DIMINISH HIS ACTION IN ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS CONDUCT. YOU MAY INDICATE, IF YOU BELIEVE IT TO BE TRUE, THAT THIS OFFENSE WAS OUT OF CHARACTER FOR HIM AND THAT HE HAS LIVED (IF YOU KNOW) AN OTHERWISE LAW ABIDING LIFE, ETC.


NB THE MORE PERSONAL AND LESS “BOILERPLATE” THE LETTER IS, THE MORE IMPACT IT WILL HAVE.

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, OR WOULD LIKE MORE GUIDANCE IN PREPARING YOUR LETTER,
PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL [edited out attorney name and phone number]
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  #22  
Old 10-09-2005, 11:29 PM
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I want stress that a good letter will come if you think about the four points in the memo and be sure to address each aspect they discuss.
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  #23  
Old 10-09-2005, 11:38 PM
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my family and I also wrote letters for my husband, and also very close friends of ours and his boss (who says he will keep his job for him til he comes home) bless his heart. The judge told my husband that he received all the letters and it looks like he is lucky to have so much support. Now, my husband gets sentenced Oct 12th so I am anxious to see just how good that support did when it comes time for him to be sentenced...Like most said it can't hurt...
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  #24  
Old 10-09-2005, 11:43 PM
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I also wrote a letter to the judge prior to sentencing. In it I told him about my husband's character as a human being, as opposed to the way he was going to be portrayed in court. I acknowledged that he had made a mistake, that he was ashamed for what he had done and that we both knew he had to "pay his debt". But I also asked for leniency. During the sentencing, the judge mentioned my letter, said that he was impressed with what I had written and told my husband he wished he didn't have to impose the mandatory minimum sentence that he did because he truly felt he could and would be a productive member of the community. Even though he imposed the mandatory minimum at that time, his lawyer filed a "rule 35" motion and the judge cut his time in half. So I'd like to believe the letter made a bit of difference after all.
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Old 10-10-2005, 06:04 PM
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I think letters help a great deal. I wish I would've received supervised release, but I did receive a downward departure of 6 months down to 18 months due in part to the letters. I think I had about 10 letters and my attorney narrowed it down to 5 that he sent to the judge. I had to write my wife's letter because she wouldn't write it, but I wanted the judge to think I had some assemblance of a family life. My others were from a former boss, two pastors a lifelong friend and a doctor. I included pictures of my boys as well - perhaps that made an impression.

I sent some of the letters directly to the judge because I thought my attorney waited too long to include it in his sentencing position report - I could be wrong or right.

Good luck and God's grace to you.
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