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Start building a powerful and persuasive case to prove you're worthy of mercy at sentencing.

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What's Your Elevator Pitch on Why You’re Worthy of Leniency at Sentencing?

Dear Resilient Course Visitor:

If you were to venture a guess, how many people would you say that your judge has sentenced? The answer, of course, would depend on how long a judge has been on the bench. Whether your judge sentenced 100 people or 1,000 people, you can be sure that each of those people hoped for mercy.

But hope isn’t good enough.

Do you anticipate a sentencing hearing in your future? Then consider how you will differentiate yourself from every other person that has come before the bench. When it comes to allocution, most people don’t have a clue of what to say. Usually, it’s some variation of:

  • I’m sorry for what i did and the mistakes I made.
  • Prison wouldn’t do society any good in my case, because I’m not really a criminal.
  • My wife and kids need my support, and we’ll miss each other.
  • Since my arrest, I’ve been going to church and praying for help.
  • Forgive me for the mistakes I’ve made.

If you value liberty at the soonest possible time, then it may make sense to work toward a more persuasive elevator pitch. As we’ve said previously, a sentencing hearing is an opportunity to make the biggest sale of your life. The only question is how well you want to prepare to make the sale. Showing is a lot more powerful than talking.

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Buy for 2 Payments of $597

What’s Wrong With Saying Sorry and Asking for Forgiveness?

There isn’t anything wrong with such sentiments, but they may not be the most effective strategy for sentencing.

Before we get to an effective mitigation strategy, we’d like to offer some thoughts on what’s wrong with each of the five statements above. Obviously, we’re not lawyers and we’re not dispensing legal advice. Rather, we’re sharing information that we’ve learned from our interactions with sentencing judges, lawyers, prosecutors, and more than 1,000 people that have gone through a sentencing hearing.

  • I’m sorry for what i did.
    • Unfortunately, experience can make a judge--and everyone else that works in the judicial system--rather than cynical. They hear “I’m sorry” from many defendants. Then, they review recidivism rates. They see that more than five out of every ten people they sentence return to the judicial system and face new sentencing hearings. From a judge’s perspective, those statistics make them less inclined to believe pleas of sorrow. Instead, they equate such pleas with crocodile tears, or false, insincere pleas of grief. Prosecutors will counter that a defendant is only sorry because he got caught.
  • Prison wouldn’t do society any good in my case, because I’m not really a criminal.
    • Judges aren’t particularly moved by criminal defendants that venture their commentary on when prison terms are appropriate. A person striving for mercy at sentencing may consider a more innovative approach. Rather than telling a judge why he shouldn’t go to prison, it may be more compelling to offer some measure of proof to show tangible steps he has taken to reconcile with society.
  • My wife and kids need my support, and we’ll miss each other.
    • Most all people love their family members. Judges understand that defendants will miss their family. But statements about missing family members rarely move a judge to mercy at sentencing. Instead, defendants that talk about missing their family may get a question from the bench about what thoughts the defendant had about his family when he was committing a crime.  
  • Since my arrest, I’ve been going to church and praying for help.
    • Talking about religion rarely goes well for defendants at sentencing. Many people turn to faith after they’ve been charged with a crime. They make claims of how faith has helped them see the wrongs of their ways. Judges, however, may believe that prison may be just the spot for a person to test his commitment to faith. In any event, judges will not impose a lighter sentence simply because a defendant started to attend religious services after a criminal charge. 
  • Forgive the mistakes I’ve made.
    • Judges do not have the power to grant forgiveness. They are tasked with carrying out the will of the legislative and executive branches of government. That is their assigned duty. They do not have the power, or the inclination to forgive. They do have the power to grant mercy, or leniency at sentencing. In cases where they grant mercy, or leniency, it’s likely because the defendant has proven worthy, through merit.

If you want to prove worthy of mercy, or leniency at sentencing, then the time is right to contemplate your mitigation strategy.

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What Does an Effective Mitigation Plan Look Like?

To answer this question, we’ll offer another analogy related to sales. John and Steve visit a prospective customer that has a problem. John tells the customer that he understands the customer’s problem and that he is going to build a solution. Steve comes to speak with the same customer. Rather than telling the customer that is going to build a solution to the problem, he brings a solution with him, shows the customer how the solution will fix the customer’s problem, asks the customer for permission to fix the problem for free. If the customer likes what he sees, the customer can choose to pay--if not, there will not be any charge.

Based on the analogy above, would you say that John or Steve has a higher chance of closing more deals with customers?

An effective sentence-mitigation strategy takes time to build. There isn’t any guarantee that the strategy will succeed. It’s about sowing seeds today, with hopes that the strategy will bear fruit at some point in the future. 

A sentence-mitigation strategy is highly personal. It must build a compelling story, showing that the defendant has carefully architected a methodical plan to make amends. To the extent that he puts time and effort into the mitigation project, he may succeed in moving a cynical judge.

The process of building an effective sentence-mitigation strategy follows the same pattern of building anything else worthwhile. It requires engineering and contemplation. As an analogy, consider starting with a piece of land. You want to develop the land into something meaningful. Depending upon resources, and best use, you may choose to build a parking lot, or you may choose to build a hospital. You will have to decide what is best. Then, you will have to do it. But building something is better than talking about what you’re going to do.

Too many people go into a sentencing hearing without any idea of what they’re going to do. Worse, they talk about what they’re going to do, but they fail to present anything compelling that would influence a cynical judge. 

Start by contemplating best possible outcomes. Then, think about a plan. Put priorities in place. And execute the plan each day.

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When Should I Start Building a Sentence Mitigation Plan?

This question is like asking the best time to plan an oak tree. The best time to plant an oak tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today!

Our sentence-mitigation workshop isn’t for everyone. It requires contemplation, planning, work, and execution. Our sentence-mitigation experts are available to advise and assist as necessary. But this is a highly personal project, and can be as small or as large as a person chooses. As with designing any project, the only limit is imagination, time, and resources. 

Defendants that are serious about working to build a compelling case for mercy should choose the best option for them. For more information, they may want to connect with your team by sending an email to [email protected].


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