Structuring Your Narrative
I’m hopeful that you’ve learned a few lessons from the sample template letters that we’ve provided. It wouldn’t be effective for anyone to copy and paste from the templates because they’re not “boiler-plate” letters. In order for your sentencing narrative to be effective, the narrative must tell your story. Consider the audience, consider the message, and consider the outcome that you want.
There is an old saying about lawyers that represent themselves. According to the saying, a lawyer that represents himself has a fool for a client. The message, I think, tells us that despite a lawyer’s intelligence and training, it’s hard to be objective when as self-advocate.
When writing your sentencing narrative, don’t try to be a lawyer. Don’t try to litigate the case. Let your lawyer argue the facts of the case.
Your sentencing narrative serves a different purpose. As we’ve tried to show, in writing your sentencing narrative you’re striving to help your judge get to know you. And you know yourself better than anyone. Tell your judge a story—your story. Help your judge understand:
How you got here,
What you’ve learned,
What you’re doing to make things right, and
Why you’re worthy of mercy.
Effective storytellers always consider the audience and the message. They begin with an opening. Look at the openings we’ve used in the template letters. Then modify that opening to suit your personal circumstances.
To write the sample letters, I had to interview each person. Since I didn’t know anything about the client, I spent hours asking questions and then listening to how they responded. I wanted to find themes in their life. Then, I used the information that I gathered to write a story. Each story had a beginning. Then, the letter offered insight into the client’s background. In the middle, the letters revealed more about the influences that led to the crime. In the end, I wrote about reasons why the person was a worthy candidate for mercy.
No one will need to interview you if you’re writing your sentencing narrative.
You know the background of your life.
You know the influences that led to your current predicament.
You know what you’ve learned from this process.
You know the steps you’ve taken to make things right and why you’re worthy of mercy.
Simply built your persuasive case to help the judge understand more about your life.
After you’ve written your narrative, make sure that you share your letter with people that you trust. Their perspective may help you improve upon the work. Remember that the art of writing is really rewriting. It’s very important to invest the time to build the strongest, most persuasive case possible. The perspective of others can prove especially helpful.
After you’ve distributed your narrative to a series of people that you trust, you may or may not want to make changes. Remember that with regard to your sentencing narrative, you’re writing for an audience of one: a sentencing judge. You’re striving to help the judge know you and understand you a bit more. If you succeed in that effort, you may influence the judge to grant leniency.
If you would like our team to assist you with editing, contact our team by email at TEAM@PrisonProfessors.com