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Thread: Remorse as a factor in sentencing.

  1. #1 Remorse as a factor in sentencing. 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    I have read a lot of newspaper accounts of judges comments on passing sentence on a criminal. It appears that many take expressed remorse for a crime into account when determining how long a criminal should serve in prison.

    My own view is that the main difference between a criminal who expresses strong remorse for his crime, and one who does not, is simply which one is the better actor! There is no way, IMO, that a judge can determine if remorse is real.

    I have this picture in my mind of a nasty criminal serving his time, laughing over the fact that his excellent portrayal of remorse convinced a naive judge into giving him half the time he would otherwise serve.

    Am I right? Should remorse be taken into account when sentencing?


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    I think any deterrent effect of a penalty for a crime is dependent on how swiftly and surely the punishment is perceived to be. Hence, to allow leniency for jailhouse conversions, whether genuine or not, undermines the law.


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    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    We may think that defendants can pretend in court by crying, making big apologies, pretending to accept Christ, etc. The courts, however, also receive inside information from the police, jails, prisons and probation departments regarding the defendant's daily behavior (ie, only the best of the best can pretend 24/7). A defendant's bold, arrogant, unruly and boastful behavior typically makes its way to the courts, which is then unmoved by any courtroom theatrics.

    It would seem that remorse expressed only at sentencing is perceived as too little too late, and that the remorse that would have the most effect would be expressed before or during arrest. Confessions followed by guilty pleas also mean a lot because it means that the defendant "fessed up" and didn't challenge the charges and make the prosecution prove its case.

    Judges are also usually aware of abusive childhoods (some of which are positively horrific) suffered by defendants, which can convince a judge to grant mercy and/or recommend programs/counseling as part of the sentencing/treatment.

    The following story is of doubtful authenticity, but certainly sounds stupid enough to have actually happened. Some years ago, a judge passed a 15-year sentence on a defendant, who then told the judge that he could do that "standing on his head". "In that case," said the judge, "I'll give you another 15 years to get back on your feet." Way to go, judge!
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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    I do not believe that remorse should be a factor in deciding the length of the sentence for a criminal. It is practically impossible for the judge or jury to know if a defendant is truly remorseful for their actions. No one should be given a more lenient sentence simply because they are better at acting in front of the judge. Any defendant would most likely be terrified at the thought of spending their life in prison and would use this fear to fake remorse.
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    i dont think that it is as easy to fake remorse as easy as you think it is. what about serial killers or actually have a lack of remorse for their actions?
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    In the case of serial killers I believe that although many of them have a genuine lack of remorse for their actions, they are still conditioned throughout their lives to fake these responses. From a young age, many serial killers are personally aware that they are different from most people their age or in their lives in general. Since they are aware of this and understand that the way they react is not normal, they can condition themselves to fake remorse when it is necessary. Over a lifetime of this self training, they could get pretty good at faking remorse and make it extremely difficult for a judge to tell the difference between real and fake remorse.
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    That is true but I think that if the judge concludes that a defendant is genuinely remorseful, then that person should be given the opportunity to serve a shorter sentence because they may not have had intended to commit the crime that they did.
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    Malignant Pimple shlunka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maryjane420 View Post
    That is true but I think that if the judge concludes that a defendant is genuinely remorseful, then that person should be given the opportunity to serve a shorter sentence because they may not have had intended to commit the crime that they did.
    Yep, you never know when you're going to accidentally point a gun at someone, pull back the hammer, and place six shots arbitrarily into their chest cavity.
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    Regardless of whether or not the defendant truly feels remorse, they still committed a crime that put them before a judge and jury. A person feeling guilty for committing a crime may show that they are a remorseful, not terrible person but that didn't prevent them from breaking the law. Even if they feel remorseful for what they did, they cannot go back in time and prevent themselves from committing the crime. Remorse may show that the defendant is actually human, but it won't change the outcome.
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    Malignant Pimple shlunka's Avatar
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    Perhaps they only decided that bashing someone's head in with a bat was a bad idea, halfway into doing it?
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    Forum Masters Degree MrMojo1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    I have read a lot of newspaper accounts of judges comments on passing sentence on a criminal. It appears that many take expressed remorse for a crime into account when determining how long a criminal should serve in prison.

    My own view is that the main difference between a criminal who expresses strong remorse for his crime, and one who does not, is simply which one is the better actor! There is no way, IMO, that a judge can determine if remorse is real.

    I have this picture in my mind of a nasty criminal serving his time, laughing over the fact that his excellent portrayal of remorse convinced a naive judge into giving him half the time he would otherwise serve.

    Am I right? Should remorse be taken into account when sentencing?
    IMO, it depends on the crime.

    If there was no malicious intent or forethought, then I would take remorse into account. There are many cases where a legal matter is classified as a crime, where the circumstances and maturity of the participants have a more dominate role than intent. I recall a crime where a child stole food, because he was hungry and had no other means (he could imagine) to get food. There are hundreds of cases where juveniles (and some adults) behave poorly and make bad decisions when confronted with a crime in action (a couple of high profile rapes that have occurred in mid-west over the past year are strong examples of this). Should those witnesses be charged with "Failure to stop and render aid" or more severe charges? I think it would be situationally dependent on many factors, with remorse being include in the analysis.

    The human animal doesn't consistently behave or act in a manner that is easily defined.
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