Welcome to the Sentencing Prep course. We welcome this opportunity to assist people facing a sentencing hearing. We’re not a law firm and we don’t provide legal representation. Rather, we work as advocates to serve:
People anticipating that they may face a sentencing hearing.
People anticipating that imprisonment could be a part of their future.
People in prison that need help.
People that have been released from prison and need assistance.
As our testimonials show, we sometimes collaborate with law firms. In most instances, we work directly with people facing charges, or we work with their family members.
When preparing for sentencing, regardless of whether it’s for a driving offense, a drug offense, a white-collar offense, or a violent offense, we’re certain that a person should think about sentence mitigation.
What is sentence-mitigation?
When prosecutors bring a case against an individual, they focus their attention on the alleged misconduct. More than justice, many prosecutors want convictions. They measure success with stiff sanctions and financial penalties. They do not consider the favorable characteristics of the individual.
In reality, we’re all human beings. We all have histories with redeeming qualities. An effective sentence-mitigation strategy will help stakeholders understand the person’s life story.
Stakeholders that may never sit face-to-face with a person have an enormous influence. Decisions they make have life-long implications on a person, even though they may not know anything about the person being charged. Who are these stakeholders?
Prosecutors: Prosecutors score victories with convictions and long sentences. They highlight criminal charges and negative characteristics to build a persuasive case for a conviction and severe sanction.
Probation Officer: A Probation Officer will craft a presentence-investigation report (PSR) to support the prosecutor’s version of events. People sow seeds for a better outcome if they’re successful at influencing the outcome of the PSR.
Sentencing Judge: In most instances, federal judges have experience as former prosecutors. Consider how those experiences may bias a judge’s opinion of the person about to face sentencing.
Defense Attorney: To argue for the lowest sentence, a defense attorney will rely upon the law and previously decided cases. Defendants can help their attorneys make a stronger case for mercy when they present compelling personal life stories.
Prison administrators: Staff members in the Bureau of Prisons may or may not meet the person, but they’ll have influence. They will rely upon the PSR and government’s version of events to make decisions that have an enormous influence on the defendant’s life. An effective personal narrative will influence the defendant’s journey long after the judge imposes sentence.
At Resilient Courses, experience convinces us that every person that faces a sentencing hearing should invest the time and energy to craft an effective personal narrative. The narrative requires an investment of time, but it yields huge dividends in assisting both defense counsel at sentencing and the defendant throughout the journey. It tells the defendant’s life story, helping all readers see and appreciate the many layers and complexities of the defendant’s life.
Defendants frequently struggle to write effective personal narratives. They may be too caught up in the tragedy of being prosecuted. With so many others pulling the strings of their life, defendants sometimes find it difficult to articulate a compelling story that is worthy of mercy.
Too often, judges reject a defendant’s version of events because it is self-serving, offering excuses rather than explanations.
All defendants want the lowest sentence.
All defendants are going to miss their family and children.
All defendants see themselves as good people.
When writing a sentencing narrative, write to influence stakeholders of the system. We want others to see and appreciate the defendant as an individual who gets the seriousness of the moment. That means an effective narrative will accomplish the following tasks:
Identify with the victim’s loss and suffering.
Express influences that led to the acts in question.
Articulate true remorse.
Show what the defendant learned from this experience.
Define what steps the defendant is taking to reconcile and make things right.
Persuade the judge and others that the defendant will never again appear as a criminal defendant.
Prove that the defendant is worthy of mercy.
Ideally, we want all stakeholders to see the individual as a person, balancing the negative characteristics that the government will highlight. A person can accomplish this task by writing a life story in a first-person narrative.
Writing an effective sentencing narrative requires a considerable amount of time. If a person works with a member of our team, we would have to go through the following exercises:
We interview the client at length.
We grasp a full understanding of the client’s personal background and identify themes that mitigate the criminal charge.
We gather detailed notes from the interview.
We use the notes to draft a personal, first-person narrative of between 2,500 and 3,500 words that tell the story in the defendant’s voice.
We work with the client to edit the draft until it serves the needs of defense counsel and the defendant throughout the journey.
It takes members of our team between 20 and 30 hours to complete a narrative, because we don’t know anything about the person. But a person that follows this do-it-yourself course can accomplish the task alone. Simply follow the steps outlined throughout this project, and learn from the samples that we include.
The sentencing-narrative will influence the defendant’s journey long after the sentencing hearing. It will contribute to the following outcomes:
Position the defendant for the lowest possible sentence.
Ensure that the defendant serves the sentence in the best possible environment.
Assist the defendant in getting to the halfway house at the soonest possible time.
Provide the highest levels of liberty on Supervised Release.
Position clients for early termination of Supervised Release.
In the following pages, we provide several sentencing narratives from different clients that retained us to write their narratives. (We’ve changed the names and identifying characteristics to protect their identifies.) Consider the samples as case studies from individuals that were charged with four different types of offenses, including:
White-collar offender that pleaded guilty to fraud. Outcome: Lower sentence than prosecutor and probation officer recommended.
Physician with previous conviction that went through trial. Outcome: Lower sentence than prosecutor and probation officer recommended.
Defendant pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography. Outcome: Sentence to residential reentry center rather than prison.
Defendant that pleaded guilty to drug charges resulting in death. Outcome: Lower sentence than prosecutor and probation officer recommended.
Defendant was business owner convicted of drug offense. Outcome was probation when prosecutor asked for several years in prison.
Defendant was an actor convicted of drug offense. Outcome was sentence significantly lower than prosecutor’s recommendation.