Press-Republican

Guest Column

November 24, 2012

Defendants should detail their guilt

I’ve seen countless defendants in 33 years as lawyer and judge.

Most people charged with crime will plead guilty to something and will not go to trial. If allowed, they will stand quietly in court and plead guilty without admitting anything. Particularly in sex offenses or domestic violence, they will minimize their own behavior and blame the victim.

All of us make mistakes in life, especially when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Sometimes, it is serious enough to break the law and to harm others. It is how the person responds to their wrongdoing that is the real measure of character. It says a great deal when people take responsibility for their actions, learn from their mistakes and change their behavior.

Some defendants immediately accept responsibility; they are honest and contrite about their behavior and are ready to change. This is relatively rare.

Others will respond to the expectations put on them by the court system. Many defendants are experts at manipulating, denying, minimizing and blaming others. This certainly applies to domestic-violence defendants but also to alcoholics, substance abusers and sex offenders. They’ve all been living dual lives, keeping secrets and avoiding responsibility.

HUMAN NATURE

Whether the defendants are charged with a sex offense, domestic violence, driving while intoxicated or another crime, many will avoid facing themselves and what they have done for as long as they are allowed to do so. That is human nature.

Accountability can start in court. A defendant who does not admit the facts of what he did is not likely to be a positive participant in a batterer’s, sex-offender or substance-abuse program.

Not every defendant will change, but the possibility of doing so is maximized by requiring admissions. A good time to break through the denial and minimization is in the courtroom at the guilty plea.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Guest Column
  • clute_cropped.jpg Finding accountability, healing

    Today, I focus on the vast majority of cases that do not go to trial but end in a guilty plea, writes former District Attorney and City Judge Penny Clute.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • krieg_felicia_mug.jpg Affordable doesn't mean low quality

    Drugstore products often perform just as well as their high-end counterparts, Felicia Krieg writes.

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • paul_grasso.jpg Opportunity to repair infrastructure missed

    A vibrant economy requires roads, bridges, dams and other assets that are in good condition, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • ken_wibecan.jpg Remembering the Sixties

    Each Memorial Day and Labor Day in the early 1960s, about a dozen of us city-dwellers drove to Lake George, writes columnist Ken Wibecan.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Denenberg_Stu1.jpg The right to be forgotten?

    Europe taking first steps toward securing privacy with Google and Facebook, writes columnist Stu Denenberg.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Ethical consumerism in vogue

    However, making purchasing choices that can help save the planet aren't always that simple, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg U.S. lacking leadership

    Inspiration is hard to come by as society struggles to fulfill the traditional American dream, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    June 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Farmers strive for quality, safety, animal welfare

    June Dairy Month is a good time to appreciate all the effort that goes into producing the very best in dairy products, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    June 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Libraries still relevant

    In the digital age, it takes innovation and creativity to assure libraries stay a vital part of the community, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    June 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Trees at risk from pests

    The Emerald Ash Borer is a major threat to ash trees locally and across North America, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    June 1, 2014 1 Photo