My Law Life

by Scott Ealy (Effingham, Illinois, USA)

Archive for April 2010

A Lesson On Sentencing Hearings . . . Via Monty Python

  

  

Please Ignore The Subtitles

  

  

  

During my high school years, I would wait up religiously for the late Sunday evening appearances of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” on our local PBS-affiliated television station.

Although I had no interest in law, I was more than amused by “the courteous murderer,” a sentencing skit.

  

Warning To Defendants:  “The courteous murderer” is a satirical comedy sketch.  It is NOT real. 

  

If it’s real mitigation that you earnestly seek to prove for yourself or a client, however, here are Illinois’ official “factors in mitigation,” as found at 730 ILCS 5/5-5-3.1(a):

   
    

The following grounds shall be accorded weight in favor of withholding or minimizing a sentence of imprisonment:

  

  1. The defendant’s criminal conduct neither caused nor threatened serious physical harm to another.
  2. The defendant did not contemplate that his criminal conduct would cause or threaten serious physical harm to another.
  3. The defendant acted under a strong provocation.
  4. There were substantial grounds tending to excuse or justify the defendant’s criminal conduct, though failing to establish a defense.
  5. The defendant’s criminal conduct was induced or facilitated by someone other than the defendant.
  6. The defendant has compensated or will compensate the victim of his criminal conduct for the damage or injury that he sustained.
  7. The defendant has no history of prior delinquency or criminal activity or has led a law-abiding life for a substantial period of time.
  8. The defendant’s criminal conduct was the result of circumstances unlikely to recur.
  9. The character and attitudes of the defendant indicate that he is unlikely to commit another crime.
  10. The defendant is particularly likely to comply with the terms of a period of probation.
  11. The imprisonment of the defendant would entail excessive hardship to his dependents.
  12. The imprisonment of the defendant would endanger his or her medical condition.
  13. The defendant was mentally retarded as defined elsewhere in this Code. 

  

  

One accurate aspect of the above-displayed Monty Python video clip is its portrayal of the defendant’s right of allocution.  The defendant has a right to personally address the court to make his own final remarks –  following the presentation of all sentencing evidence, yet before the court’s final decision.

This is the defendant’s opportunity to have “the last word,” to tell the court anything relevant about himself including his capsulized life story, future plans, and perspective on particular events before the court.

   

  

Question:  Do tears and apologies “work” at sentencing hearings to elicit a lighter sentence?

 

Answer:  Rarely, if ever.  The better practice is an ability to point to specific post-crime conduct that demonstrates a firm and consistent resolve to make matters right . . . prior to “hammer time.”

  

  

  

Scott Ealy

    

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Written by scottealy

April 26, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Using Fictional Poor People As Scapegoats

  

  

  

  

Wealthy propagandist bloggers in the struggling state of Illinois … are recycling an immoral ploy from their weathered 1980s handbooks.

  

As information “sources,” they are quoting purported anonymous, poverty-stricken teenage females – claiming that these anonymous minors are gleefully mass-producing children in order to avoid employment.  And to meet the purported avowed goal of qualifying for public housing.

  

Which then plunges other people – our blameless “good” citizens, of course – directly into economic turmoil.

  

The bloggers beg the question:  Why let these evil poor people (“them”) wreak such havoc upon . . . (“us”)?

  

  

Below are three examples of this propaganda technique for your consideration – quoted directly and word-for-word this year from an area blog:

  

Exhibit One:

  

From a teacher – the girls in the particular high school classroom were discussing their future.  Late last year, many identified that their goal in life was to get into public housing……..just like their parents.  As horrific as that sounds, this month, the girls were sharing information on starting a family.  They were well aware that the entitlement programs provide more benefits for single mothers.  Hence, they were advising that it’s best to have a family (4-5 children), before actually marrying the childrens’ father, because the money from the government, along with government housing, is so much more lucrative.

  

Exhibit Two:

  

The patient, that day, was a young 17 year old girl.  As the physician began the exam, she proudly announced, “I’m pregnant. by a boy at my school.”  Only a junior in high school, the young mother would deliver before the end of her senior year.   Of course the father had long departed.

But the girl was overjoyed at her situation.  “I don’t really like living at home with my parents.”  she commented.  “Once I have this baby, I get to move out of the house and never have to work again!”

“Why don’t you want to work?” inquired the physician.

“I don’t like to work.” she responded.  “And, now I’ll never have to.”

The doctor continued with his day, knowing that he would be taxed for his work, his home, his purchases and even his death, just so this young lady would have the luxury of never having to contribute to society.

  

Exhibit Three:

  

Now come Joe and Sally (I’ve changed their names, but they live here in Central Illinois).  This 30-something couple are enjoying the good life.  By working the system, they live in government housing, enjoying monthly food stamps, free health care, and a $1,600/month welfare check.  Life is good.  So good, in fact, Joe and Sally are also able to enjoy a fairly active recreational drug habit!

 

  

  

Hmmm.

  

Who are these purported anonymous poor people who keep popping up to provide such convenient material?

Did they call a press conference?

Why never any names or specifics?  (Surprise, surprise).

  

  

Link To “I’ve Got Mine” (music video) by Glenn Frey

  

  

What kind of individuals blame our budget woes on the suddenly-quotable-but-anonymous poor . . .

With no mention, for example, of the tax-dodging wealthy or the millions of dollars in CORPORATE welfare being doled out in our region?

  

  

The scenario sounds all too familiar.

  

  

  

Scott Ealy

  

Written by scottealy

April 24, 2010 at 7:27 am

Much More Dignified Than Today’s Political Anger

  

Robert Kennedy at Indianapolis – April 04, 1968

  

  

It was 42-years ago last night that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

I was only 7-years old at the time and a 2nd grader at Sacred Heart School in Effingham.  I vaguely can recall watching an evening news bulletin about the assassination.  I remember feeling sad and scared.

   

Sweet And Appropriate:  Late on the evening of April 04, 1968, U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, then a presidential candidate, delivered a wonderfully eloquent impromptu address to political supporters in Indianapolis who had not yet received word of Dr. King’s death.

  

Soundbite – Sen. Robert Kennedy:

  

  

  

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country . . . .

Robert F. Kennedy

  

  

Two months later, Senator Kennedy also fell victim to an assassin’s bullet in Los Angeles.

  

  

But, Kennedy’s spirit lives on, counseling us to turn our backs on angry political rhetoric.

  

  

  

Scott Ealy

  

Written by scottealy

April 5, 2010 at 3:32 pm