Telling the Story of Prison at Sentencing

Prison is not just a potential outcome of sentencing; it can and should be an influencer at sentencing.  Where a person will serve their time, how a person will serve their time, and what information follows them into an institution are all integral components of a comprehensive, empathy-based, sentencing presentation. Helping us get set for…

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Disrupting the Dehumanizing Sentencing Process

I can think of no better guest to officially launch the Set For Sentencing Podcast than the incomparable Liz Vartkessian!
Her amazing organization takes an undeniably essential humanistic approach to the development of crucial sentencing mitigation in capital and serious non-capital cases.
I have learned so much from Liz and the fantastic trainings her organization provides over the years, and I can’t wait for you to meet her.

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persuasive communication and but therefore

The Three Most Important Words in Persuasive Communication

We lawyers are told to use narrative to advocate for our clients and persuade decision-makers.  But, nobody ever taught us how to tell great stories.  That’s all about to change. Persuasive Storytelling Imagine we are hunkered down at our favorite bar.  I throw back a shot and say, “Man, have I got a story for…

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Senators Sell Sentencing Snake Oil at KBJ Confirmation Hearing

The Set for Sentencing Podcast is so close to launch and I can’t wait for you to see/hear it.  But, given that the recent Senate Confirmation Hearings for Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson were so heavily focused on federal sentencing law, I could not wait to get started.  Here was an impromptu, lively conversation with Mark Allenbaugh.  Mark is a federal sentencing expert, the founder of, and formerly served as a Staff Attorney for the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

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Anastasia Screams In Vain: The Devil’s Coming For Melissa Lucio

I Stuck around St. Petersburg, when I saw it was a time for a change. Killed the Tsar and his ministers, Anastasia screamed in vain. –Sympathy for the Devil, The Rolling Stones The famous Stones song is a meditation on evil.  If we have some understanding of the devil’s work, we may better understand the…

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Every good story has meaning!

We humans are undeniably creatures of story.  Think of how empty life would be without ever having been transfixed by images dancing before our eyes in a dark movie theatre, engrossed in an incredible page-turner, or mesmerized by a master storyteller weaving a yarn around a roaring campfire. But stories are not just for entertainment. …

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The Labor of Law – Save Yourself and You Save the World

Next month I will have officially reached my twenty-fifth year of lawyering; the majority of those years were spent slogging through the litigation trenches as a state and federal public defender.  These can be dark waters we lawyers swim in.  We confront people at their lowest moments in life.  We absorb trauma vicariously through our…

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