remorse-detectingremorsepaper.doc

In judicial terms demeanor refers to the respect the

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offender’s demeanor. In judicial terms, demeanor refers to the respect the offender shows for the judicial process. Failure to cooperate with the process such as withholding information or committing acts of perjury can be taken as not showing respect which in turn can be translated into a lack of remorse.In one case, the judge in articulating the criteria that she used for sentencing wrote- “but there is another factor that I am taking into consideration, and that is the character -26-
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of the accused as demonstrated by his false statements in court, under oath, which demonstrate ... a lack of remorse.” In another case, the equation of an absence of remorse with defiance of authority is made explicit. 16 Here an inmate who refused to identify his associates or the weapon used to kill another inmate was convicted “not of perjury, murder, or conspiracy but for demonstrating a lack of remorse by his defiant attitude.” Finally, there are those offenders whose absence of remorse is taken not merely as an occasion for judicial denunciation but as a sign of underlying pathology. In these instances, the court responds not to the offender but to the testimony of those such as psychiatrists and psychologists who are believed to have expertise in interpreting and understanding the inner feelings of the offender. Here remorse affords a link between medical and legal discourse. The offender who is judged to have an incapacity to feel remorse- no matter what -27-
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he or she has expressed- is not just someone who showed callousness or indifference in their crime but someone for whom this inability is a central part of their being. Overt expressions of remorse become discredited as manipulations or as shallow and insincere or the result of fear of consequences rather than regret for the victim or regret over one’s conduct. In one case in which the prosecution applied to have the defendant declared a dangerous offender, a psychiatrist was quoted as describing him as “aggressive, impulsive, reckless in his conduct, there is a lack of remorse for his actions, and if remorse is expressed, it is probably manipulative.” The person who is diagnosed as psychopathic or as having a personality disorder is not just someone who is perceived as unable to feel remorse but someone whose expressions of remorse will no longer be believed. Let us now assemble from the foregoing attributes the judicial representation of the remorseful offender. -28-
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Showing remorse requires that the offender view his or her deed as blameworthy, that he or she accept moral agency with no extenuation, and that the system be accepted as infallible in that if one is found guilty, one must be guilty. The refusal to see the deed as wrong or the unwillingness to see one’s self as the agent who chose to perpetrate the deed or continued declarations of innocence in the face of conviction are merely indications that one does not feel remorse.
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