Sitting through a cookie cutter sentencing case is painful for all concerned – from an advocacy perspective and as someone who deeply cares about just results. Most defense counsel will end up in a presentencing phase. Phoning it in and doing the same tired process might insulate the practitioner from being deemed ineffective – but that’s an exceptionally low standard. Be better. Rethink sentencing strategies.
**Crafting Lasting Impressions: The Untapped Power of Sentencing Advocacy**
In one of the most remarkable sentencing cases retired Judge Rob Shuck encountered, a Soldier faced charges related to drug use, and the Defense crafted an exceptionally compelling narrative. The sentencing case had a consistent narrative focused on showing me the Accused has rehabilitative potential versus merely telling me he did so.
The overarching theme was brilliantly simple yet profoundly impactful: the Accused’s unwavering commitment to overcoming drug addiction. This theme seamlessly wove through every aspect of the case, requiring no elaborate arguments to tie it all together.
The evidence presented was nothing short of compelling: a well-worn, thick recovery diary chronicling daily reflections on struggles with drug abuse, a poignant photograph capturing the Accused leading a Narcotics Anonymous discussion, the prized sobriety coin symbolizing his triumphant journey, an expressive painting depicting his liberation from the clutches of addiction, and testimonies from counselors attesting to his active participation in substance abuse group therapy. Even in the face of sentencing constraints limiting confinement discretion to +/- 30 days, the Defense counsel executed a masterful presentation, exceeding expectations for a case with such minimal potential confinement.
That case stands in stark contrast to the commonplace and clichéd sentencing cases often observed in higher-stakes scenarios. The disparity underscores the need for a higher standard in crafting compelling sentencing cases as a professional. What makes this case truly remarkable is that, despite the absence of detailed notes or even the Accused’s name, the vivid recollection of each piece of evidence persists nearly three years later. The defense counsel’s approach was not only memorable but creatively impactful, leaving an indelible mark on retired Judge Shuck’s memory. In a profession where cases often blur together, this particular sentencing case stands as a testament to the power of creativity and diligence in advocacy, a standard we should consistently strive to achieve and surpass.
In approaching the task of building a sentencing case, ask whether a piece of evidence, a memo sought, or an exhibit you are considering offering into evidence contributes to your theme and theory. Avoid throwing in everything for the sake of creating a record. Be better. Build memories. Provide relics that the sentencing authority will remember. Rethink typical sentencing strategies.