Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
“I’m Sorry for What I’ve Done”The Language of Courtroom Apologies$

M. Catherine Gruber

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199325665

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199325665.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2016. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 05 December 2016

(p.161) Appendix 1 Data Collection and the Defendants

(p.161) Appendix 1 Data Collection and the Defendants

Source:
“I’m Sorry for What I’ve Done”
Publisher:
Oxford University Press

Between November 2004 and March 2006, I observed 78 sentencing hearings in three different U.S. district courtrooms. Because an allocution at sentencing is optional, sometimes defendants declined the opportunity to address the court. Defendants produced allocutions in 58 of the 78 hearings. Of these 58, 6 were excluded from the data set of apology narratives—2 because the defendants were not apologetic;1 2 because the defendants were obviously not native speakers of American English; a fifth because it was almost 14 minutes long and thus highly anomalous2 (the next shortest allocution was just over 3 minutes long); and a sixth because the sentencing judge altered the typical procedure in inviting the defendant to allocute. This left 52 apologetic allocutions for the data set: 17 from the courtroom of ~Judge X, 17 from the courtroom of ~Judge Y, and 18 from the courtroom of ~Judge Z.

The 52 defendants consisted of 41 men and 11 women whose ages ranged from 20 to 56, with a median age of 29.5. In terms of race, 26 of the defendants (50 percent) were Caucasian; 16 (31 percent) were African American; 8 (15 percent) were Native American; 1 (2 percent) was Hispanic; and 1 (2 percent) was Asian.3 Of the 49 defendants about whom I was able to obtain information regarding their educational history, 9 had graduated from high school, and 14 had earned their GED or HSED (high school equivalency degree). Thirteen defendants did not complete high school. This makes a total of 36 of 49 defendants (73 percent) whose education consisted of a high school degree or less. Eleven defendants had completed some postsecondary schooling, and 2 had earned college degrees. It appeared that more than 70 percent of the defendants had at least one family member or friend present at the sentencing hearing.

The information that was available regarding the criminal history of the defendants varied; at a minimum, however, defendants’ criminal history categories (I–VI) were announced during the sentencing hearing, with the (p.162) following distribution: 18 defendants (34 percent) were assigned the lowest category, category I; 4 (8 percent) were assigned to category II; 14 (27 percent) were assigned to category III; 3 (6 percent) were assigned to criminal history category IV; 4 (8 percent) to category V; and 9 (17 percent) to the highest category, VI. A look at the intersection of criminal history category and gender reveals that women were much more likely to have a lower criminal history category than the men.

Table 8.1 Distribution of Criminal History Categories by Gender and Race (Caucasian vs. non-Caucasian), P-Value = .0003 (Wilcoxon)a

Criminal History Category

Total

Female

Male

Caucasian

Non-Caucasian

I–II

22

10

12

12

10

III–IV

17

1

16

10

7

V–VI

13

0

13

4

9

a Thanks to Joanne Wuu for this calculation.

The crimes for which the defendants were sentenced ranged from selling, distributing, and/or producing drugs (24 defendants); firearm charges, such as being a felon and possessing a firearm or possessing an unregistered firearm (14 defendants); nonviolent money-related crimes, such as theft, embezzlement, or fraud (6 defendants); bank robbery (3 defendants); election fraud (3 defendants); using explosives to destroy a mailbox (2 defendants); child pornography (1 defendant); false bonding (1 defendant); assaulting an officer in a federal correctional institution (1 defendant); and escaping from a correctional institution (1 defendant).4 A look at the intersection of type of crime and gender reveals significant differences in the types of crimes that men and women were being sentenced for:

Table 8.2 Intersection of Type of Crime by Gender and Race (Caucasian vs. non-Caucasian), P-Value = .0179 (Fisher’s)a

Crime

Total

Female

Male

Caucasian

Non-Caucasian

Firearm/explosive/robbery

19

2

17

12

7

(with or without drugs)

Drugs

20

3

17

6

14

Money/fraud/false bonding

10

6

4

7

3

Other

3

0

3

1

2

a Thanks to Joanne Wuu for this calculation.

Women were more likely to be in federal court because of money-related crimes; men were more likely to be in federal court because of drug or firearm-related crimes. While there were some differences evident in the (p.163) intersection of type of crime and race (with the split being between Caucasian and non-Caucasian defendants), this was not statistically significant.

Defendants’ total offense levels ranged between 5 and 35 on the scale of 1–43. Five defendants (10 percent) had an offense level between 1 and 8; 12 defendants (23 percent) had an offense level between 9 and 18; 24 defendants (46 percent) had an offense level between 19 and 27; and 11 defendants (21 percent) had an offense level between 28 and 35. When the average offense levels of defendants in this data set were compared by courtroom, the numbers were very similar: the average offense level in ~Judge X’s courtroom was 20.9; in ~Judge Y’s courtroom, 20.0; and in ~Judge Z’s courtroom, 21.5. Given the difference in women’s and men’s criminal history categories, it was not surprising to find a similar correlation between women’s and men’s total offense levels:

Table 8.3 Intersection of Total Offense Levels by Gender and Race (Caucasian vs. non-Caucasian), P-Value = .0049 (Wilcoxon)a

Total Offense Level

Total

Female

Male

Caucasian

Non-Caucasian

Mean ± SD

20.8 ± 7.9

14.3 ± 7.3

22.6 ± 7.1

18.5 ± 8.1

23.1 ± 7.1

(Range)

(5–35)

(5–27)

(6–35)

(5–31)

(10–35)

a Thanks to Joanne Wuu for this calculation.

Notes:

(1) In both of these cases the defendants’ convictions were based on a jury’s finding, not a plea of guilt; one of them is referred to, however, in section 2.2.

(2) This very long allocution had been prepared in advance and was read aloud.

(3) Information about defendants’ race came from public documents available for the cases in ~Judge X’s and ~Judge Y’s courtrooms; for the defendants in ~Judge Z’s courtroom, defendants were assigned a category based on their appearance.

(4) The number of charges for which defendants were sentenced exceeds 52 because some of the defendants were sentenced for multiple charges.