Understanding Autism at Sentencing

At least 1 in every 54 Americans are on the Autism Spectrum.  But prosecutors and judges often fail to understand what Autism is, why those on the spectrum can be morally blameless for the crimes they have committed, why they are they unlikely to reoffend, and why sending them to prison is cruel and unusual…

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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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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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“Tell me a story”, Says Former Federal Judge Nancy Gertner!

My colleague Alan Ellis travels the country interviewing judges about the most (and least) persuasive elements of sentencing advocacy.  In a recent article published in Law360, Mr. Ellis conducts an extensive interview with Judge Nancy Gertner.  It’s an essential read for all criminal law practitioners.  The full article can be accessed HERE.  The following are…

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The 3 “Rs” of Sentencing Storytelling.

No matter what the case, there are only three types of sentencing stories defense lawyers ever tell.  I call them the 3 “Rs”, and they are: REASONS, RELATIVITY and REDEMPTION.  Every case has at least one.  With a little bit of luck and whole lot of elbow grease, you may uncover all three. Understanding these…

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