Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 04-15-2003, 12:11 PM
Melandry Melandry is offline
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 695
I need to write a character statement for a friend who is in serious legal trouble

And I don't know how.

I don't really want to give background, let's just say the bare, impersonal facts: a dear friend of mine is being held on murder charges. His only defence is self-defence, and FWIW I believe him in that. His bail/bond hearing is approaching, and I among others of his friends have been asked to write character statements to try and emphasize the positive aspects of his character that have (understandably) not been at the forefront during this terrible situation.

I am trying to write mine even as I speak, and although I have written something, I've certainly never had to write a statement like this before, and I don't know if my approach is the best one to take. My statement so far (in letter form) is kind of rambling, more a reminiscence of good memories about my friend that I try to connect to positive traits of his. Basically, I'm trying to give an overall impression of a guy I greatly respect, trust and care for. But should I be doing something a bit more mechanical? Not outright "X is not a flight risk b/c...." but something more along those lines, a just the facts painting of him as a an upstanding citizen?

I would especially appreciate advice from anyone who is familiar with writing such statements in legal scenarios. My understanding is that his lawyer has requested this, so I figure it must be a not-uncommon technique. Anyway, others' gut instincts are also appreciated. I really want to do this right because I want to help my friend as much as I can, and not being a lawyer, it's only little things like this that I can do.

Thanks in advance.
Old 04-15-2003, 01:18 PM
Bill H. Bill H. is offline
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Silicon Valley
Posts: 4,190
Ultimately, the purpose of the letter is to appeal to humans on an emotional basis for leniency, so a from-the-heart approach is much better then something mechanical.

I don't know any details, but if your friend has truly done something horrible, then helping him get a lesser punishment (including reduced bail) is not a very moral thing to do. In my opinion. However, if you're pretty convinced he's innocent then helping him is.
Old 04-15-2003, 01:21 PM
j.c. j.c. is offline
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: nearby
Posts: 1,480
Use the city, county, and state gov web sites for your area to find legal aid groups and advocacy groups who may be able to provide help. Also, if there are church groups in your area who work with prisoners, they may have a "how to" for this task.
Old 04-15-2003, 01:39 PM
Kalhoun Kalhoun is offline
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Over by dere
Posts: 27,023
Sorry to hear your friend is in a jam. I would approach this with personal observations backed up by facts. Such as, "Joe Smith is a devoted family man. He has been troop leader for his oldest son's boy scout troop for x years. He has organized fundraisers for his daughter's swim team for the last two seasons." Use examples that can be backed up in writing, if possible. Just saying he's a good guy may not be enough. Saying he's a good guy who won a Good Samaritan Award for running into a burning building is. Good luck.
Old 04-15-2003, 02:35 PM
hajario hajario is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Posts: 15,250
Talk to his lawyer. The lawyer should be an expert in this sort of law and may even know what would work best with the specific judge that will be reading the statements.

Old 04-15-2003, 03:01 PM
krisolov krisolov is offline
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: State of Equilibrium
Posts: 857
I'd say from the heart and backed up with examples are good starts. Fit in there how long you've known your friend too. Maybe something addressing how he handles himself under stress?? If it fits, of course. You're trying to help him, not damn him.
Old 04-15-2003, 03:25 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
And Full Contact Origami
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 55,324
I would also urge you to write about specific ties he has to the local community. Kalhoun's comments are good - put in anything that shows how strongly and positively he interacts with the people and organizations around him.

I wouldn't emphasize anything that has to do with an on-line presence - I'm talking about flesh-and-blood, brick-and-mortar community here.

The only issue at a bail bond hearing, theoretically, is the accused's likelihood of appearing for trial. However, judges are human. The better the guy sounds, the less likely a flight risk he is, or so goes the logic.
Old 04-15-2003, 03:53 PM
Melandry Melandry is offline
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 695
Thanks for the advice, guys. The request for character statements from his lawyer has been passed on through his friends so I have not actually spoken with his lawyer directly, and the advice I was given about it was very vague. My understanding is that the lawyer will pick the character statements he thinks work best from all the ones he gets, so mine shouldn't be key or anything. I think I will stick with the form I started in and keep trying to connect my experiences with my friend back to his good character.
Old 04-15-2003, 06:51 PM
Manda JO Manda JO is offline
Join Date: Jul 1999
Posts: 10,402
Go from the general to the specific in each of your paragraph:

Joe is sweet/example/example/example

Joe is caring/example/example/example

Joe is involved with the community/wxample/example/example

Don't give a bunch of examples and then tie them together in the the end. People follow what they are reading better if they know what they are reading for.

And put in a bit about yourself: who you are, how long you have known your friend, and in what circumstances you have known him (i.e., I am a 37 year old homemaker and mother of seven. I have known Joe Blow for over thirty years as a schoolmate, a coworker, a business partner, and as a close, personal friend.)
Old 04-16-2003, 06:48 AM
Margo Margo is offline
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The South
Posts: 157
I recently had to write an affidavit for a friend of mine that is being sued for custody of her children and when I asked the lawyer how to write it, she told me to do it from my heart. I know the circumstances are different, but that is what I was advised to do. Margo
Old 04-16-2003, 07:08 AM
Melandry Melandry is offline
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 695
Thanks guys. The statement has ben written and sent out now. I really appreciate the advice and the way it was given without prying or judging me or my friend.
Old 04-16-2003, 11:06 AM
dorkusmalorkusmafia dorkusmalorkusmafia is offline
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: With Cromm Cruach
Posts: 1,865
My friend is a fine upstanding individual. He always has the best in mind when selling drugs to the kiddies. He is the kindest and gentlest person one can ever imagine, so say the kids in the preschool prostitute ring that he formed. No one could ever imagine him doing anything bad.

(Semi paraphrased from Heavy Metal the movie.)
Old 04-16-2003, 05:44 PM
handy handy is offline
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Pacific Grove, Calif
Posts: 17,493
Maybe you can get some ideas from this site on what to write for character substance:

"Trustworthiness. Respect. Responsibility. Fairness. Caring. Citizenship. The Six Pillars of Character are ethical values to guide our choices. The standards of conduct that arise out of those values constitute the ground rules of ethics, and therefore of ethical decision-making."



Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 11:20 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to:

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to:

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017