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May 25, 2005

How sentencing consultants operate

Earlier this month, The Recorder published a fascinating profile of sentencing consultant Dayle Carlson that indirectly provides a great primer on effective sentencing advocacy.  The author of the piece, Jeff Chorney, was able to secure permission for me to post the article, which can be downloaded below.  Here is a taste:

Carlson says there no magic behind his work.  Over the years he has developed a structured interview to get at useful information.... "The fundamental purpose … is to change a defendant from being a defendant to being a person," he said....

Carlson, 58, says that what keeps him going are the success stories he's seen through his work with drug and alcohol treatment centers.  He has an unflagging faith in people's ability to change.  It sounds bleeding heart, but it hasn't cost him credibility.  He says the key is staying objective in his evaluations.

"My theory is you gotta deal with the dark side as well as the bright side [of defendants]," he said.  Sometimes the best way to do that is to confront the negatives head-on. "I fight sometimes with lawyers about what we can do," Carlson said. "My philosophy is that if you push that envelope too far, you push yourself into irrelevance.  If they get too far from what is realistic, the lawyer loses credibility."

[San Francisco solo Arthur] Wachtel said Carlson does a "beautiful job" balancing the concerns that compete for a judge's attention, including rehabilitation, public protection and likelihood of recidivism. "He's able to give context to violations of the law," Wachtel said. "Giving them context results in a more rational, reasoned response, which translates into a better sentence."

Download mitigation_expert_profile.DOC

May 25, 2005 at 02:09 PM | Permalink

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Comments

The first quoted sentence in the block quote-- about making the defendant a person-- is what I've been hearing (and trying to follow) as how-to-do-death-penalty-cases for 20+ years.

Posted by: TomFreeland | May 25, 2005 11:16:57 PM

Tom, as they sometimes say, "this isn't brain surgery." And yet, it often is as important.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 26, 2005 10:16:18 AM

Your posted article on Sentenceing Consultants featuring Dayle Carlson was very interesting. I am a retired U.S. Probation Officer from the Western District of Washington. 19 of my 25 years wtih U.S. Probation was as a presentence investigator and guideline specialist. Your post did not give any contact information for Mr. Dayle Carlson or his company. I would like to be able to contact him, because his approach to the sentencing process is very similar to mine.

Posted by: LeRoy Washington | May 26, 2005 3:56:50 PM

From my extremely limited experience as a non-legal-type, it seems that the term of the sentence is practically decided prior to the sentencing hearing. Is this anywhere near true? If so, anything presented in the hearing would have to be extraordinary to impact the outcome. Any thoughts?

Posted by: Jeannie | May 27, 2005 7:03:57 PM

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