Monday, March 17, 2014

Is it Really Hard to Say I'm Sorry? The Power of Apology in New York Criminal Case Sentencing

My son came home from college last weekend. Nothing like riding in his car and listening to his music. This time was different. He is taking this music class which focuses on the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Hey that was my time, and my kinda music. He was playing everything from Carole King to Dylan to the Moody Blues to Chicago in his car. I was really rocking to oldies. I could ace that class.

Him playing Chicago's 25 or 6 to 4 reminded me of Peter Cetera which then reminded me how much I loved the song "Hard for me to say I'm Sorry." A number one hit in the early 80s, and the lyrics were powerful. Which all then reminded of Why more people can't, you know, apologize.

So the song relates to two main themes: 

1. proclaiming you are sincerely sorry and
2. promising to do better

New York Criminal Sentencing

I have sat for hours in front of many judges in many courtrooms. At final sentencing, they have to ask the defendant "Do You Wish to Say Anything?" What percentage of people say anything, in my world the number of people that ever say anything in open court is less than 5%.

I ask WHY?

Well one reason could be they are planning on an appeal? They wish to appeal their conviction? Except in most cases they have plead guilty to something, so what would they be appealing?

The BIG Question: Would it hurt or help to say, "I am sorry"

In many cases, a sincere and planned apology might sway a Judge. I can't even begin to tell you the number of times I have seen Judges moved to more lenient sentencing. This was in the face of a prosecutor out for blood (or jail or prison).

To say it never happens is ridiculous. Now just saying the words with nothing behind them is meaningless, and may even cause more harm than good. Giving an apology without more, without the promise (hope) of a better tomorrow is uneven. I have asked Judges would you like to hear anything at sentencing, a unanimous yes from most, and their favorite expression: I'm sorry.

Words Plus Emotion Create Motion

You want to move people then be moved. Come from the heart and the head. Hope keeps the preachers, priests, doctors, and rabbis in business. People thrive on hope, which is the sincere belief that tomorrow can be better than today. The brighter future is not a false dream.

Talk to your attorney about the value of confession, of the value of apology, and of the value of promise because in the end it may make a difference. If you are on that proverbial fence, and one side is truly greener than the other, the right words at the right time may make a difference.

Always consult with an attorney about any criminal or non-criminal charges you have pending to discuss your options and/or defenses.

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