16 votes

Capitol rioters’ tears, remorse don’t spare them from jail

3 comments

  1. [3]
    lou
    (edited )
    Link
    I always find that puzzling about US justice. How can a judge determine what is and isn't a sign of genuine contrition? Aren't they just rewarding the naturally extroverted? I've seen comments in...

    The judges often cite remorse as a key factor in deciding sentences

    I always find that puzzling about US justice. How can a judge determine what is and isn't a sign of genuine contrition? Aren't they just rewarding the naturally extroverted? I've seen comments in the local media (not the US) about how "the killers" showed no remorse or signs of emotional distress. Isn't that unfair to those that are simply unlikely to display emotion in an overt manner? Aren't the judges simply favoring the naturally dramatic, or worse, the manipulative? If I was a defendant in a criminal case, I'm entirely sure that I would look guilty and unremorseful regardless of my culpability. Judges should look at the evidence, not at the theatricality of the defendants...

    15 votes
    1. [2]
      psi
      Link Parent
      Yes, absolutely. In the US, sentences have a baseline punishment which is modified by aggravating/mitigating factors. (For example, the slaying of George Floyd occurred in the presence of a child,...

      Yes, absolutely. In the US, sentences have a baseline punishment which is modified by aggravating/mitigating factors. (For example, the slaying of George Floyd occurred in the presence of a child, which was an aggravating factor the judge considered at Derek Chauvin's sentence hearing.) In abstract, it is reasonable to also consider remorsefulness. We would clearly prefer to punish more lightly the person who regrets their actions than the person who regrets nothing.

      But judges are human and suffer from the same set of biases as the rest of us. In practice, that means:

      • defendants of the same class/race as the judge are more likely to receive a lighter sentence (consider the the Brock Turner case as an especially egregious example);
      • attractive defendants receive shorter sentences than homely defendants;
      • and indeed, judges can be fooled by crocodile tears, as exemplified by this Jan 6 rioter (and mentioned in the article).

      Failing to present the "correct" emotional response will be to your detriment at every stage of the judicial process, even before trial. Consider the case against Marie, a rape victim who was charged for filing a false police report (for reporting the rape) because the police didn't believe she showed the "correct" signs of trauma.

      9 votes
      1. lou
        Link Parent
        Yes. To be clear, "aggravating/mitigating factors" are a basic and necessary feature of most if not all criminal justice systems, the problem I see is that in the US the definition is broad enough...

        Yes. To be clear, "aggravating/mitigating factors" are a basic and necessary feature of most if not all criminal justice systems, the problem I see is that in the US the definition is broad enough to allow arbitrary subjectivity into the sentencing process.

        1 vote