General Question

SergeantQueen's avatar

Do reasons affect an outcome or do excuses affect an outcome?

Asked by SergeantQueen (11656points) 1 week ago

I have an internship and I got to sit in on a sentencing. I don’t believe fully everything he said as to why he did it, but I do believe his back story and that he has had a very bad life leading up to what happened.

The judge didn’t take most of his story into account when sentencing. She recognized he had issues, but didn’t let that affect her decision.

If she had, would she be making her decision based on the excuse the guy gave, or because he gave a legitimate reason (in the judges eyes).

Can you recognize that someone may have had a reason to do something, and while that reason doesn’t excuse the behavior, maybe it should change the outcome? Or would changing the outcome be accepting that reason as an excuse?

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9 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

I can’t guess at the inner process of that judge, but I do believe some judges are more likely than others to consider mitigating circumstances. Also letters to the court about a defendant’s history and character can affect a decision.

I would not think that one principle concerning reasons and excuses would necessarily work the same with all judges.

SergeantQueen's avatar

That is very true! That is very interesting to bring that up, we were talking after and the only reason he got that judge was because the one he was supposed to have had a trial. Apparently the judge that was at the trial may have just given him parole (this is a speculation though) vs the judge he got gave him prison.

kritiper's avatar

Reasons. Everybody can see through the excuses.

Pandora's avatar

I like to think of it in this way. Was the victim of the crime given any consideration when they were being violated? Millions of people have all sorts of reasons to do something bad and yet they don’t. I think judges are inclined to give someone a break if they seem unlikely to do such a thing again and if no one truly got hurt. But if someone did get hurt then they have to consider the victim first. It’s not about the defendant. It’s about the victim.The victim should be able to have justice. Excuses shouldn’t matter. Of course, not everything is always black and white. Sometimes the victim could’ve been someone who was victimizing the other person till they snapped. If they have gone through the court system and nothing was done and so they snapped one day then I think they have a valid excuse. An example would be a wife who got tired of being beaten every day and took out a restraining order and cops saying they can’t do anything until he actually harms her again and she’s afraid for her life and he comes over angry and upset. So lets say he beats her and she shoots him. Well I would say he was asking for the worst to happen.

SergeantQueen's avatar

So to be vague, the victim was not very affected in the sense that someone caught what was happening before it could happen. but they were still affected because, you know, someone targeted them and just because the offender was caught before it could happen, it doesn’t mean they aren’t a victim.

SergeantQueen's avatar

But the crime was like half-committed if that makes sense?

flutherother's avatar

Reasons and excuses seem much the same to me and to what extent they affect the verdict depends on the judge. Some judges known as “hanging judges” wouldn’t attach much weight to reasons or excuses while others were more sympathetic. I think we expect judges to take everything into account when sentencing, and the fact that we have courts that go to a great deal of trouble to get relevant background information and testimony shows that in our legal system at least, we try to be as consistent and as fair as possible. If it is thought that the judge got it wrong, or new evidence comes to light, there is also the possibility of an appeal.

Zaku's avatar

Each law may or may not specify how circumstances might affect what the judge rules. Sometimes the judge is given leeway, sometimes not.

Typically, almost all laws, and most judges, tend not to give “backstory” or “issues” much/any weight towards reducing sentences for crimes. Juveniles, first-time offenders, and people who are believed to have been doing something in good faith or for very compelling reasons, in emergencies, etc, will tend to get the most consideration.

However, often laws assign a range of possible fines and sentences, and the sympathy the judge may have for the guilty party may get them the lighter end of that range.

jca2's avatar

There are also political reasons why Judges decide the way they do. Judges may not want to seem to be “soft on crime.”

Also, depending on what the crime was, the Judge may want to impose such a punishment as to make the defendant think twice if they are going to repeat the crime or other crimes. The defendant will think about the punishment (jail time, probation, etc.) and maybe think about how much they enjoy and value their freedom, and so may be less inclined to do it again.

Depending on what the crime was and the criminal history of the defendant, letters to the Judge may have been helpful. If the defendant was a valuable member of the community, or had a decent upbringing and this was a “one time” thing, or there were other circumstances that may help out, letters would help. If, however, this was a repeated crime or the defendant was not a valuable member of the community or there are no other factors that may soften the Judge, then letters are probably not going to be forthcoming or helpful.

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