remorse-manuscript-socialandlegalstudies-websiteedition.doc

If the offender shows remorse that can be validated

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threat of pain and punishment. If the offender shows remorse that can be validated, it is because he(she)actually feels the emotions they are displaying. If the offender fails to offer a convincing demonstration, it is a reflection of what is lacking in his or her character- that he(she) has succumbed to the temptation to act strategically and self- interestedly rather than sincerely and spontaneously or that he(she) simply lacks the capacity to feel remorse. In all instances, the wrongdoer reveals who they are- as either filled with remorse or as rationally manipulating the court to produce the least painful result or as lacking in moral capacity. Never do we encounter the narrative of the offender who is humbled and brought to remorse by fear of the law itself. But if law’s violence is the unnamable condition under which demonstrations of remorse occur, juridical speech gives tacit acknowledgement to the always tenuous relationship between appearance and reality. Attributions of remorse are invariably contestable and because they are contestable, always provisional. Each of the criteria enunciated above- acknowledgement, suffering, and personal transformation- can be expanded beyond 30
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whatever the offender has demonstrated. While Mr. R’s claim to remorse was rejected by a higher court, Mr. C’s claim was also challenged because he had not attended the funeral of his friend nor apologized directly to the family- a challenge that the judge in this case did not accept. ` Even among those who have been credited with ‘ extreme remorse,’ such as another offender who is described as experiencing “a great deal of grief and guilt” regarding the act that led to her conviction for Impaired Driving causing death, her claim to remorsefulness is contested by the Crown after learning that she continued to drink after the offence and lied about it. Does this imply that her resolve to change her behavior was half-hearted or insincere or can she still qualify as remorseful because she told the court the truth about her deception when the parole officers were preparing their recommendations ( R. v. Shore [2002]:24)? Or in another case, a man who was charged with first degree murder of his mother is credited by one psychiatrist with feeling remorse because of his “spontaneous and appropriate tears” but challenged by another because his remorse was “variable” and would not necessarily prevent a recurrence( R.v.W.G.F. [ 2003]: 4). In the majority of cases from the population here analyzed, the judgement mentions that the claims to remorse advanced by the defense were challenged by the prosecution with the court sometimes defending the claim and at other times rejecting it. As compelling as the narrative of acknowledgement, suffering, and personal transformation may be, judicial discourse is permeated by an equally compelling counter- narrative that, no matter how effortful the moral performance, offenders are ultimately ruled less by conscience than by self-interest. The coexistence of these two narratives together with the aforementioned flexibility in how the criteria for identifying remorse are applied are what make the designation ambiguous and provisional. The construing of 31
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Mr. R as remorseful and the subsequent revocation of this judgement is simply an
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