The Morning Before A Federal Criminal Sentencing
This blog is probably not what you think it will be.
6:00 AM , San Diego California……
As I go over my notes, my black cat is never far from my side. He knows the ritual by now…….I get up and stare out the window. And then I go out to the Jacuzzi for a half an hour. And I think and mentally prepare.
In three hours, I will be standing in my suit at the podium in front of the District Court Judge. I would like to think that my words will make a difference. I am often told by the judges that they do. More than just the law, I want to feel who the client really is and to be able to share that with the court– the good mother, wife, and good person she is who simply made one bad mistake because of severe financial stress.
The federal sentencing law says that the court must take into consideration not only the Guideline Table, but “the nature and characteristics of the offender.” When I watch other criminal attorneys in the courtroom as I wait for my turn to do a sentencing, I see that many of them forget that. They talk only about numbers and sentencing ranges and forget that ultimately the court will be passing judgment on a human being, a person no more perfect or imperfect than themselves.
I admire those of my colleagues who take their work as seriously as I do. It seems that the common denominator in those criminal attorneys who have been around as long as I have is maintaining good health, having a strong family base, and to celebrate a spiritual force in one form or another, a form to me that I call God.
Yes, those of us who are committed defense attorneys try to stay professional and objective, but we do feel and we do care for our clients. In fact, we live our cases with our clients and dream about them at night.
This blog is not material for a law journal or treatise, but is the way it in the final hours before arguing at sentencing in the courtroom. Judges judging other human beings and me there to do my best to make sure the most fair and compassionate decision gets made.
Time to shower and get in my suit . But first, I will review my notes again and” get in the zone.” How her two daughters and son miss her!– she is a young Hispanic woman who must be both mom and dad. She has already paid so much for her misstep.
I will have succeeded today if this judge realizes that my client has already been punished more than any punishment that he could ever give her. And also if he realizes before sentencing her that even the best of us are capable of making a really bad mistake. It is the nature of being human.
It is over. There are rarely happy days in the court room, but today went truly well. The government wanted 70 months and they only got 21. With time served she will be out in less than nine months.
The judge was right when he said that an education would help her. But how will she be able to get in Mexicali being a single mother of three? At least, she will be with her children and she ow gets a chance to get back on the right path again. Many of the U.S. Attorneys (prosecutors) are cynical. But very few of my clients, thankfully, come back a second time.
The wisdom of the older judge in knowing that a human life couldn’t be measured by numbers. To this judge, it made a difference that my client had never been in trouble before and has raised three children on her own under very difficult circumstances.
The shocked look of my client and the misty eyes of her boyfriend were a great reward for me. But now, it is time to move on to the next sentencing at 1:30 p.m.
Another Monday in the life of a criminal defense attorney of thirty years.