remorse-manuscript-socialandlegalstudies-websiteedition.doc

Or in a case involving impaired driving causing death

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Or in a case involving impaired driving causing death, the transgressor is characterized as ‘extremely remorseful and sincere in his expression of sadness” after he told the court that ‘he wish(ed) there was a word that was bigger and greater than the word sorry” and ‘that he had difficulty eating or sleeping, thinking about the loss that the family (of his victim) had suffered( R. v. Kaserbauer [ 2003]: 4).” Other similar symptoms connoting extreme suffering and taken as indicators of ‘extreme’ remorse include ‘feelings of sickness’ ‘overwhelming guilt’, ‘ crying’, and expressions of ‘shame’. In the absence of direct demonstrations of visible suffering or psychiatric reports that are taken as valid characterizations of the offender’s state of remorsefulness, reports by other officials such as investigating officers or probation officers of the offender’s ‘visible distress’ or that they were ‘very upset’ or ‘extremely emotional’ are also sometimes offered in support of establishing the credibility of the claim. But if extreme distress establishes the character of the offender as remorseful, it is equally clear that the lack of distress when it is expected demonstrates the absence of remorse. Hence, the court could observe in a case involving a youth charged with a gang-related murder, that he demonstrated no remorse because he ‘ was not devastated by the situation 19
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in which he found himself” nor ‘horrified’ enough not to associate with his fellow gang members{ R.v.C. [ V. ] (2002):46}. In another instance, the offender who was convicted of aggravated assault is described as ‘remarkable for (the) casualness (of his conversation) and lack of real remorse.( R.v. Cooper [2002]:31). He is further characterized as someone who ‘is perhaps incapable of arriving at a level of remorse necessary to relate to what he has done on a high emotional level.” (My emphasis.) Still others are characterized as not remorseful even if they have pleaded guilty if they discuss their offenses without ‘appropriate affect’ : “half-heartedness”, “slouch(ing) in one’s chair”, (being) “cold and dispassionate, ” and “verbalization … with an air of superficiality” are other terms used to describe some one whose moral performance is perceived as inconsistent with their claim to remorse. 9 The remorseful offender is expected to show on their body and in their demeanor that they have suffered or are suffering for their wrongdoing. If the terms in which the remorseful offender accepts responsibility deprive him or her of any claim to mitigation other than that of mercy, the sense of unworthiness that is communicated through words must be matched by gestures that demonstrate that these words correspond to what is felt. In place of the denunciation of the court is the demonstrable self-condemnation of the transgressor. It is the exposure of these feelings to public view that enables the court to verify that the offender’s ‘true’ self has been affected by their misconduct. In this self-identification of act with being, as well as in the
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