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Sentencing Advocacy Videos

 

Deja Vishny, Homicide Practice Group Coordinator

 

Our job in homicide cases is difficult not only because of the factual, forensic science, and legal complexity of the cases, but also because our clients face incredibly long sentences when convicted. This is true not just for first degree intentional homicide cases but for lesser degrees of homicide as well, particularly for Class B felonies.

 

We tend to think of getting a plea offer for a lesser in a homicide as a “good deal” for our client because of the reduced exposure time and the promise of obtaining a sentence less than life imprisonment.

 

Average life expectancy for children born in the United States today is 77.8 years. It is significantly lower for prisoners.  Read here.

 

More data for this article was pulled from here.

 

Given this data, it’s imperative that we seek sentences much lower than 40 years to ensure that that our clients can look forward to a life after serving their confinement time. When preparing a homicide sentencing we must bring all available resources to bear.  These include:

 

  • Sentencing memorandums discussing the facts of the case and relevant law
  • Mitigation reports prepared by Client Services Specialists
  • Psychological evaluations demonstrating the unlikeliness of future criminal behavior.
  • Community involvement though letter campaigns and court attendance at sentencing
  • Evidence based studies on lack of recidivism among homicide offenders.
  • Sentencing videos

 

Many times victims and prosecutors will address the court and request the maximum sentence to ensure that the defendant will never take anyone else’s life.

 

We must argue that while persons who commit homicides clearly pose a danger to society at the time of their crimes, the same cannot be said for homicide defendants released from prison.

 

A relatively recent approach to sentencing has been through the creation of sentencing videos (which can also be used for plea negotiations).

 

Videos enable us to show the court a more compelling presentation than words on paper.

 

  • Persons who know the client throughout their life, some of whom will not be able to attend a sentencing or want to speak in public, can expound on positive actions of our client in the past, their limitations and challenges, and present a well-rounded picture of our client.

 

  • Since many courts do not permit children to be present, the videos allow kids to articulate feelings about their relationship with our client in a comfortable environment.

 

  • Important portions of the client’s police interrogation can be shown to the court; when judges sees a client crying and remorseful during his post arrest interrogation it adds a new dimension to their courtroom allocution, particularly when a client is very nervous or reading a prepared statement.

 

The interviews can be combined with images and video footage provided by family and friends, who may have home videos, posted on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram that can be added to give a full picture of the positive aspects of their character and how they lived their lives. We can edit these elements over the initial interviews.

 

Sentencing videos require a team approach involving the lawyer, a client services specialist if one is involved, and a videographer.  Chris Lang in the Admin Training Division has thus far produced three of these (password needed to view).

 

Prior to filming and accumulating materials, the team meets to determine the narrative for a client’s story.

 

If you are interested in producing a sentencing video, or simply want to know more about the creation process, feel free to contact myself, or Chris. We can help you view samples of our work.