Should I feel guilty?
November 4, 2016 2:13 PM   Subscribe

I helped provide evidence that will lead to a 17 year old being tried as an adult. Should I feel guilty for providing this evidence?

I was mugged by a 17 year old. The teen was caught, and I was able to identify him. I also provided my bank statements to show my card was used after it was stolen. But the evidence I provided will now be used to have the teen tried as an adult. The teen assaulted me and took my wallet, but now I feel guilty for contributing to the teen being in jail for a long time. I think about the stupid decisions I made when I was 17. Should I feel guilty?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's ok for you to be conflicted about it. I would be too. You might be able to affect his sentencing if you talk to the court/judge in a certain way, and maybe you could get some information about that, and maybe it could help you find peace about it?
posted by fritley at 2:18 PM on November 4, 2016 [19 favorites]

I'm not sure there I a right answer to your question as posed.

Ethically I would focus on whether reporting the mugging to the police was critical to making yourself whole. Could you have gotten your bank to write off the charges without a police report? what if you had given statements to the police sufficient to satisfy your bank but not detailed enough to actually allow them to catch the 17 year old.

I personally would try to avoid interacting with the police at all costs because I don't have a high opinion of them or their role in society - but that isn't so much a question of right vs wrong as my own personal choice.

Instead of framing this as feeling guilty or not, would it help to think of what you would/will do if/when something happens in the future? whats happened has happened and you cant put the toothpaste back in the tube, as they say.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 2:20 PM on November 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

Wait, what? Dude assaulted you. No need to feel guilty. Sure, give statements saying be lenient on his sentence if you want, but I'm pretty sure you didn't assault anyone at 17.
posted by Melismata at 2:25 PM on November 4, 2016 [94 favorites]

I agree with the first two posters. I think that it would be worthwhile to see if you can submit an impact statement where you say you don't want to see the kid go to jail, and also that you should consider how and when you will involve the police in the future.

For a lot of people, coming into contact with the police means their life is ruined forever, or worse. If you feel guilty about this kid going to jail (and I would), maybe it would be worth your while to volunteer with an organization that provides reintegration or rehabilitation services for people who have been in conflict with the law.

Guilt doesn't change lives. But you could.
posted by Jairus at 2:27 PM on November 4, 2016 [21 favorites]

Should I feel guilty?

I don't think so. I'm pretty sure that the answer to a lopsided justice system isn't to discount potential harm to other people. It's certainly okay to feel conflicted about what you consider to be imperfect legal process, but it's not your fault that you had to determine which side of the utilitarian calculus would maximize the most good based on your decision (i.e., where the harm should fall based on your decision); the person who mugged you brought that decision to the table. Sometimes conflicting social values can lead to social action for change, though, from those who have been motivated to consider these things. You aren't required to do initiate this, of course, but a lot of social good sometimes come from moral pieces that don't fit together very well, and as such, others point out their inconsistency and encourage social justice.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:27 PM on November 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

If I were in your shoes I would feel absolutely correct in reporting the crime fully--it's not your fault our justice system is flawed, the best you can do is use the tools available to you to protect yourself and others.

But I would definitely write a letter to the judge.
posted by phunniemee at 2:28 PM on November 4, 2016 [24 favorites]

Should I feel guilty?

No. Reporting a violent crime was the right thing to do. How would you have felt if you hadn't reported it, and the kid went on to escalate in the violence of his acts because he got away with zero consequences? I'm going to assume that you got out of this with little to no long lasting physical damage, but what if it hadn't been you? What if it had been a newly pregnant woman who lost her baby? Or someone with brittle bones? This kid needs to be made to stop doing this.

But, I also share your concern with trying teens as adults. Many violent teens need help, not incarceration, and that's what the juvenile system is supposed to be for. So, even though I don't that it would do any good, but I would write a letter to the prosecutor and the judge (and also try to get a phone call in to the prosecutor) stating that you do not want the suspect to be tried as an adult.

But regardless of how this turns out, remember that the decision to try him as an adult is not yours. And while the judge/prosecutor may have terrible reasons for why this kid needs to go to prison, they may have good ones too.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:29 PM on November 4, 2016 [22 favorites]

He assaulted you. You have no reason to feel guilty at all.
I think I would leave it to the legal system. He deserves to get punishment of some kind.
You did what you should have done. You did not contribute to what ever happens in court. He did it all by himself.
posted by JayRwv at 2:32 PM on November 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

I think about the stupid decisions I made when I was 17.

Robbery is not a "stupid decision." Did you commit any felonies at 17? Seventeen is old enough to know not to rob people.
posted by kindall at 2:35 PM on November 4, 2016 [52 favorites]

IMHO this depends entirely on your jurisdiction. If you are in the US, then a jail sentence usually means a high chance of recidivism based on our poor record of turning around wayward souls (80+% if memory serves me right). If you're in Germany for example (doesn't sound like it), the chances of going back are much lower (again from memory 35% or less) due to focusing on rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration.

So, don't feel guilty about leading to his capture, but kudos for you for thinking about his future!
posted by walleeguy at 2:35 PM on November 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

It isn't your decision how he's tried. You should report crimes when they happen and you should give truthful evidence when asked, because not doing either of those things is harmful to society as well as individuals.

What the DA decides to do to the offender is outside your jurisdiction. It's fine to have some empathy for a person who did a stupid shitty thing and is likely going to pay a possibly disproportionate price for it, but guilt isn't going to do them or you or the system any good.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:42 PM on November 4, 2016 [12 favorites]

You might look into seeing if you can make a victim impact statement either during the trial or sentencing. A close family member of mine was the victim of a much more serious crime, also committed by someone who was 17. Like you, she didn't have a say in whether he was tried as an adult or a juvenile (I believe in that case given that he was almost 18 and with the seriousness of the crime, it was just automatic). But, she was permitted to give a statement in court requesting some leniency in the sentence, which she decided to do (obviously she could have given the statement the other way and asked them to be more harsh, but like you she felt like she wanted to ask for leniency). My understanding is they don't follow what the victim says automatically (for obvious reasons!) but they do take it into account in the process.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:58 PM on November 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

I do not think you did the wrong thing in reporting it, by any means.

But as you are the victim, it's important to remember that you are still part of the process, if you want to be. This kind of charge carries 10-20 years in prison in a lot of states, even for juveniles tried as adults. He is likely already in jail and will likely spend many months there waiting for the case to be resolved. You can make a difference in this person's life by telling the officer and the prosecutor that you are in favor of probation and/or leniency, and what you think about the potential sentencing range in your state (they should be willing to share this with you). Prosecutors typically check with victims before they make plea offers, and so you will have the chance to express your feelings about it (although obviously at the end of the day, the prosecutor gets to make that call).

I don't think you have anything to feel guilty about, however. We are all complicit in the system that creates these laws in the first place, and you did nothing by reporting what happened to you.
posted by likeatoaster at 3:11 PM on November 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

You could choose to consider that our current criminal justice system is overwhelmingly racist, against brown teenage men in particular, in what you do.

I was once the sole witness to a situation in which a young hispanic teen who did nothing at all wrong ended up charged with a dui for miniscule levels of intoxicant. I gave the DA a piece of my mind about that charge, and still the question of whether I did enough, to keep this kid! from starting out adult life with a scarlet letter already tattooed, weighs heavily on me.
posted by Dashy at 3:18 PM on November 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

ufff. this is complicated. how can anyone give you a single "right" answer?

have you any idea what the likely sentence will be? i imagine this depends on where you are and what colour / class / gender both you and the assailant were. do you know what the process will be in court? to what extent are you involved in the prosecution? can you talk to the prosecutor? in your position i might contact a criminal lawyer for advice - to understand where in the process you can most effectively press for your views to be taken into consideration (victim's statement or whatever).

to answer your question more directly, i think the guilt comes not so much from what you did "local" to the crime - you're playing a role that is largely pre-ordained - but from being part of a society where this is a problem. so be mindful (i suspect you already are) of how things got here (particularly relevant here: a little long term memory might reduce the toxic, blind monotheism in election threads). from this wider point of view you could perhaps argue - given your particular history of political actions (if any) - that you're actually less guilty than someone who was miles away - at home - when the assault happened, but who has pushed for the need to be "strong on crime".

but it's not so easy to believe in such an argument, even if it's made. you both have my sympathies.
posted by andrewcooke at 4:09 PM on November 4, 2016

No, you shouldn't.

Chances are, the only reason you could have dealt with the situation without being harmed (if you could) is because of provilege: privilege to deal with the financial impact, the privilege that the man chose not to rape you, the privilege to deal with the psychological fallout. Not all people have those privileges.

The punishments we give to young criminals may be extreme, but the criminal who mugged you could easily have chosen to NOT mug you.

Don't feel guilty. He should be apologizing to you, not the other way around.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 4:27 PM on November 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

From an anonymous Mefite:
It sounds like you already feel guilty. And I think that's a perfectly reasonable way to feel, given your beliefs about the justice system. I happen to agree with you. And I think we all should feel guilty about any role we play in harming another person, and that we as a society should feel guilty that we allow children to be treated the way this child is being treated. You're not alone in having major qualms about whether it's ethical to assist in a prosecution like this one, even when you believe that a child did something very bad. And you're allowed, after the kind of careful consideration like you're doing now, to say that you don't think it's okay, if that's actually what you think.

It seems like the question you're asking is whether you're harming him, and maybe even more specifically whether the harm you're doing to him is somehow balanced out by the harm he previously did to you. It's not clear whether you're looking for honest opinions, or whether you want us to validate the choice you've made to make you feel better. Assuming it's the former, I'm going to tell you that I believe there are good reasons for you to feel guilty, and there are things you can do to make the situation better. A lot of people have talked about retribution, how this punishment is justified because the child did something bad and so bad things should happen to him, and you shouldn't feel guilty about the punishment if he is guilty of the crime. But it sounds to me like you're not entirely comfortable with retribution. And that's a belief a lot of people share. And if you don't believe in retribution, then yes, you should feel guilty about assisting in the retribution against this child.

(I'm also going to assume for these purposes that the person you've accused is actually the person who assaulted you. But eyewitness identification is among the least reliable forms of evidence, and it's a factor in more than 70 percent of wrongful convictions. There is no scientific correlation between a person's level of certainty about their identification and the accuracy of that identification. If you have any doubt whatsoever that you've identified the correct person, I think you have an absolute moral obligation to say so, loudly and frequently to the prosecutor and the defense attorney and the police and the judge and anyone else who will listen. Because if it's wrong to incarcerate a guilty child as an adult, it's even more profoundly wrong to do so to an innocent child. If there's even a chance this child is innocent, please speak out.)

This is just my belief system, but I don't think there is anything a 17 year old child can do that justifies what the criminal legal system is doing to him and will continue to do to him if he is convicted in this case. I'm not going to BS you: an adult criminal conviction has a pretty decent chance of totally ruining his life, permanently. It will likely end his education, make it difficult or impossible for him to find a job, subject him to violence and dehumanization, cause or exacerbate mental health issues, and harm his entire family. And I hear a lot of people saying that they're okay with those life-ruining consequences because they didn't rob anyone when they were 17, so whatever happens to 17 year old children who do rob people doesn't bother them. But it sounds like, unlike those people, you do have qualms about whether the punishment this child will receive is justified by the crime you believe he committed. And I think that if you have those qualms, you should take them seriously, because I think your instinct is a correct one, and you should let it guide you.

If you knew, for example, that the punishment for a 17 year old child who steals a wallet was that he would be burned alive at the stake, or have his hands chopped off, or be given a thousand lashes, it would be obvious that it would be wrong for you to assist in that process, even if he were guilty and if the laws where you lived made that punishment the correct legal outcome. And I think that if you believe adult prison or adult jail or an adult criminal record that will follow him for the rest of his life are also wrong (even if you think they are less wrong than physical torture), you have the same moral obligation not to participate in that process.

I don't know what you believe. I can only tell you what I believe. And I believe that if you think what is happening to this child is wrong, you shouldn't assist with it, even if he also did something that was wrong. A lawyer of your own may be able to help you figure out whether there are good ways to do that, or if you feel comfortable doing so, you can contact the child's defense attorney and the prosecutor directly and let them know that you do not want to participate in the case and ask them about your options.

(Full disclosure: I'm a defense attorney. I am not your lawyer, and none of this is legal advice. But I don't believe the things I believe because I'm a defense attorney; I'm a defense attorney because I already believed these things, and that's what led me to take this job. I share your qualms about the way the justice system harms a lot of vulnerable people, especially children, and that's how I got into this line of work. And I've learned that science tells us that the moral and decision-making centers of our brains aren't fully developed until we're about 25. I've known a lot of kids who did a lot of really bad, violent things when they were teenagers, who grew up to be profoundly good, moral people. And that happened in part because people like you didn't give up on them and didn't tell them they were unworthy of compassion and consideration simply because they made a terrible decision when they were young. I'd be delighted to receive a call from a person like you who recognizes that even though you were harmed, what's about to happen to this child is wrong too, and you want to help prevent that. And I can't speak for anyone other than myself, but I would do everything in my power to make sure that you had the help you need to avoid having to participate in a process you feel is wrong. Because that's why I got into this gig in the first place.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:54 PM on November 4, 2016 [54 favorites]

If no one reported crimes, we'd be living in The Purge. Don't feel guilty for reporting the crime. He should feel guilty for committing it.
posted by cecic at 4:55 PM on November 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

In addition to weighing in to try to convince prosecutor and judge not to try as adult, maybe there is a possibility to push for face-to-face mediation, which would go even further. It may depend on whether there are programs in the jurisdiction.

I would feel guilt. I would also have reported the crime and I don't think it would have been a right choice not to.
posted by spbmp at 5:25 PM on November 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

See what you can find out about the person who mugged you. See if they have a long history of this, or if this is about recent events in their life that are overwhelming. If they stole your card to buy a gun or a new phone, that is one thing. If they got money because their family is being evicted, that is another. See who the kid is, what chance they have to recover. Guilt does not help anything, but it is a messenger. Sometimes a message like the guilt you feel, is about taking a couple of steps further, to see what is there.
posted by Oyéah at 5:25 PM on November 4, 2016

I think it's reasonable to feel guilty, and the best thing to do with that guilt *at this point* is to use it as motivation for some kind of work to make the justice system something you do not feel guilty for invoking. What that looks like could vary widely - it could be by working to change the consequences for this specific kid, or perhaps donating to a local candidate who advocates for changes to the practice of trying children as adults, perhaps joining a group in your city that pushes for policy changes like Ban the Box, or one that gives assistance to former prisoners.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:26 PM on November 4, 2016

I don't believe in trying anybody as an adult who isn't old enough to be considered responsible enough to vote. But the responsibility for creating that system is not something that belongs on the shoulders of crime victims. Even crime victims who are angry and want the perpetrators to hurt a lot for a very long time. It's the rest of society that's supposed to be sane during that time and capable of making decisions based on reason and not hurt. That should never be on your shoulders or the shoulders of anybody else who's gone through a traumatic experience. Your honesty is not the problem with the world today.

If you can forgive him, then great--but if you can't, that's okay, too. If you feel up to helping him in some fashion, or extending help to other young people in that position, then great--but if you can't, that's okay, too. Do what you can do to make the world better, but don't feel guilty because you were put in this position.
posted by Sequence at 5:28 PM on November 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

Do both. Report the crime, and write to the judge or DA about your concerns. Donate to a local defense fund that helps change the system so that in future kids who commit crimes get rehabilitation and help first, not punishment and lifelong disasters for one decision. It's not a zero-sum game where compassion to you as the victim of a crime takes away compassion to him as a young human facing a likely awful future as a consequence.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:31 PM on November 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't think you should feel guilty. Teens do stupid things, but interpersonal assault is different - a profound violation of the social contract, and it helps society - and possibly even that teen - when people are stopped from going further along that path.

It speaks well of you that your instinct is compassion, but it's okay to practice compassion for yourself as well. Don't feel guilty for being honest.
posted by corb at 6:13 PM on November 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

There are two separate questions here. The first is whether, in broad terms, it is "fair" or "right" that the young person who mugged you should be tried in the fashion he will be, or subjected to the level of punishment that he ends up incurring.

The second is whether, if the answer to the first question is "No, unfair!", it is your job to (a) personally adjudicate the level of that unfairness and (b) rectify it yourself by interfering with the normal workings of the law. That is, can you on your own initiative use unjust means (being dishonest to your fellow-citizens, refusing to work with the normal processes of justice that we've collectively, as a citizenry, set up and that constitute the regular rule of law in the U.S.) to rectify what you perceive to be an unfairness in the way the system is set up.

The second question basically boils down to "Is vigilante justice OK? Is it an obligation?" In both cases, the question is whether, in a democracy, your own private sense of the justice of things should override your obligation to work within the system as currently established. If the argument is that you should have suppressed evidence necessary to the police investigation because the justice system is unfairly harsh, then consider whether someone of opposite philosophical leanings is therefore entitled to suppress ameliorating evidence, or to dial up testimony to achieve the "right" level of punishment, because they honestly feel the justice system is unjustly lenient.

I think it's great if you want to use this experience as a motivator to work to reform the justice system through normal channels, but a country where everyone freely fucks with established protocols in the interest of achieving their particular flavor of "fair" outcome... is just not really one I want to live in.
posted by Bardolph at 6:22 PM on November 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

I would not feel guilty, but I might let the court know you are willing to submit a statement urging mercy and forgiveness. As the victim of this crime, if this young person is found guilty, you have a unique opportunity to influence this young person's case.
posted by vrakatar at 6:36 PM on November 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

You shouldn't feel guilty for reporting a crime and, of course, you aren't responsible for the sorry state of the criminal justice system. That said, I want to reiterate what anonymous said above.

I believe that if you think what is happening to this child is wrong, you shouldn't assist with it, even if he also did something that was wrong.

I wish I could do more than simply "favorite" that comment. No doubt, I will refer to it many times in future discussions about the justice system.
posted by she's not there at 6:41 PM on November 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

No, of course you should not feel guilty. Had you not reported this and identified him he'd be off doing it and worse to your neighbors, instead of cooling his heels in jail.

Thank you for reporting it.

There is room for reforming the criminal justice system in all kinds of ways, but sacrificing your own and your neighbors' safety so that violent criminals can continue on their merry way preying upon the public is not one of them.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:58 PM on November 4, 2016 [12 favorites]

I just want to point out that the teen has been charged as an adult, but most likely will never have a trial. The way the system "works" is to create the highest charges possible and then offer a plea bargain down to lesser charges. Hardly anyone actually goes to trial especially teens who just want to get out of jail as soon as they can. They take the plea.
Our system asks " who needs to be punished"? And they get punished and you get told to move on. Restorative justice systems ask " who needs to be made whole"? In this case both you and the teen need to be made whole, need a path forward. I don't know what that path may look like for you but I'm glad you are thinking about our system. Maybe thinking, learning and voting is a way forward for you that will also help others. Thanks for sharing.
posted by SyraCarol at 7:29 PM on November 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Should I feel guilty?

You feel the way you feel. There's no should or shouldn't about it. I think a reasonable person might be justified in reporting a violent crime and also believe that the justice system's response to their report is inadequate, unjust, or counter-effective.
posted by bunderful at 8:30 PM on November 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I got randomly assaulted by a drunk guy with a history of mental illness in a park once and the charge was upgraded to a hate crime because he was randomly yelling gay slurs at me as the drinking had convinced him that I was someone I was not - despite the fact that I was in the park with my wife. I told the prosecutor that what the guy needed was some assistance, some substance abuse counseling, some anger management counseling, some tolerance training, and probably to not be allowed in a park where there are kids playing. I specifically stated that jail time did not seem like it would be beneficial and that more good could be done with the actual counseling.

I think the prosecutor and the judge liked it. I think he was assigned four separate counseling sessions for a period of 6 months, in addition to being banned from the park with jail time already served. So yeah, tell the prosecutor and the judge what you feel would benefit the defendant - even if you've also provided the testimony that convicts the defendant.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:12 PM on November 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

I was going to write out a version of what the anonymous mefite wrote as a response, but theirs is much better.

I am guessing that the answers you're getting vary largely on one factor: how much experience the poster actually has with the US justice system. Those of us who have been in it, or have found ourselves or someone we love on the wrong side of it, see that the flaws are much deeper than most people understand, and that there is very little chance that this kid will get what is fair or what will help him change the factors that led him to commit this crime.

Putting someone, especially a child whose brain is not fully developed, in prison is very likely a life sentence, regardless of their sentence. It will have a permanent and incredibly destructive effect on them and their family.

Now, none of that is your fault, obviously.

I teach 7th graders, but for most of my career I taught 16-17 year olds, and I've had truly troubled kids. I have a kid now who committed a serious felony because of one moment of being really, really stupid. He didn't think. He couldn't think through all the consequences of what he did in that moment. Between ADHD, poor family support, and terrible peers, and a very influenceable personality, I fear that he will continue to make poor life choices and that they may put him in prison.

I worry about that a lot.

The fact that you asked this question means that you aren't sure what's happening is just or fair. Trust that instinct and do what you can to offer mitigating information.

I'm really sorry that this happened to you. There is no good or right way to respond. But I do believe that we cannot stand back and let this hot mess of a justice system chew through kids who are quite literally wired to make stupid decisions all the damn time. Good luck, and I wish you peace with whatever you decide.
posted by guster4lovers at 11:29 PM on November 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

A 17-year-old is not a "child", he's an adolescent or young adult. Every mentally-able 17-year-old knows perfectly well that he shouldn't be robbing someone. That this person made the choice to assault and rob you is not something you should be guilty about, for heaven sake!

I do agree that the "justice" system isn't always just. But the solution is certainly not to avoid reporting serious crime. Perhaps you could give an impact statement where you give your opinion about the punishment that is or is not warranted for what he did to you.

But ultimately it's not just about your opinion of what he did to you, it's about the danger he is to society. All other potential assault and robbery victims that he might victimize in the next N years have a right to be considered.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 1:05 AM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you were attacked and hope you're feeling safer.*

I've spent the last 10+ professional years as a special ed teacher for kids who could either go to jail or to my school, so the mindset of 17 years olds with records are in my wheelhouse. I know these kids pretty well.

The short answer is that very few teens want to commit crimes, ever. Taken in the abstract, they will tell you that mugging a person is a terrible thing. And yet, some of them will do that exact thing because of brain development and underlying emotional issues. Teenagers are kinda known for doing stupid things.

It comes down to poor impulse control, often combined with various emotional disabilities or just really shitty lives. Poor impulse control is a known thing, the prefrontal cortex (where decisions are made thoughtfully) is not fully developed in a neurotypical teen. It's even worse in a non-neurotypical teen. This part of their brain SUCKS at making thoughtful decisions. Also, the part of the brain that seeks pleasure, the nucleus accumbens, is highly developed and has an extremely exaggerated response to perceived pleasure.

In other words, teenage brains are mostly wired to WANT THAT THING, WANT IT NOW, AND NOT CARE HOW THEY GET IT. Most neurotypical kids can sit on that because they're engaged appropriately with society and know you don't rob someone to get money. A teen who is doing that does so because they don't think they have any other options (and remember, they're not really thinking much at all).

Kids with emotional/behavioral disabilities -- kids with untreated ADHD, shitty homes, chemical imbalances, etc. -- those kids can have little to no ability to stop themselves from doing some terrible stuff.

Also consider the role addiction can play into this scenario: they often have physical dependence to satisfy so it's basically a Perfect Storm where terrible decisions are executed.

What I'm saying is, in my experience there are very few BAD KIDS but there are many kids who have problems that haven't been addressed and who need help. With proper wraparound support, a lot of these kids can turn their shit around.

It's safe to assume that he will not get this support in prison.

So you could absolutely speak to the judge and express yourself and ask for this kid to get help. That would be a kindness and you taking a Very Bad Thing and turning into a Very Good Thing . You would be modeling genuine compassion to the court which is always a positive in the universe.

*I want to note that in no way am I excusing committing crimes; this kid SHOULD be given a serious consequence for this. And for those who are responding, "I was a screwed up teen and I never robbed anyone," then consider yourself lucky that you weren't dealt a fucked up hand.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:30 AM on November 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

When I was 17, I knew that assaulting someone was wrong. I wouldn't feel bad about this at all. If you want to urge the judge to give him leniency and counseling or something to help this kid improve his life, do it.

For all you know, you've helped get this kid off the wrong track. I had a friend who wanted to try to become a drug dealer in high school (just weed and stuff like that). He created his business plan and set his targets to turn a profit. But then he got robbed in a deal for like a few pounds of weed and he gave up. Now he's a successful hedge fund manager. As cliche as it sounds, maybe you helped this kid understand that crime isn't really worth it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:05 PM on November 5, 2016

I don't know about your jurisdiction, but, where I live, you can make a victim impact statement. I would use this to say how you were affected and that you urge the justice system to focus on rehabilitation and community service. I did this after a crime once and I at least know the information was taken into account. You could perhaps also say you hope they would consider his youth.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:09 PM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

If I had a neighbor who I knew was growing marijuana at home for personal use, I would not call the police because even if I disapproved of his actions I know that his punishment would be disproportionate.

However, assault and robbery are not "victimless" crimes. Nor, it seems safe to assume, a one-off youthful indiscretion. Not to be flippant but consider the example of Peter Parker. Reporting and cooperating was the morally correct thing to do. If you are inclined and able to use your position to influence proceedings from here in a way that is more in tune with your beliefs, that is admirable.
posted by raider at 7:29 AM on November 6, 2016

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