So many times my clients ask me if having a friend, family or community member write a letter on their behalf will help their case. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't. ...But in those cases where a defendant could really benefit from having the DA (while we're in plea bargain negotiations,) or the judge get a glimpse into who "they really are," there are a few things the writer can do to ensure that their letter of support is as effective as possible.
First, understand why the letter matters. Your defense attorney is hoping to use the reference letter demonstrate that their client is a respectful person who leads a full life outside the criminal justice system. The purpose of this letter is NOT to argue that the defendant is innocent.
Second, give the reader a reason to believe that the writer actually does know the defendant is a person worthy of leniency. To do this, the writer needs to explain how he or she knows the defendant, including the context and length of their relationship, and that the writer knows the extent of the legal woes the defendant is facing.
Third, don't just tell the reader that the defendant really is a good person, show them. Give specific examples of things the defendant has done that prove to you that the defendant is a worthy person. tell a story.
Fourth, provide a way for the reader to reach out to the writer, if need be. Although the reader will seldom ever follow up, by providing a full name, and phone number or email address, the writer is not only demonstrating that their commitment to the defendant goes beyond writing a quick letter, it also sends the message that the writer is who they say they are.
Fifth, in almost all cases, keep the letter to less than one page. Judges and DA's are busy people and they may not take the time to read or really consider the contents of a longer letter. Further, by keeping the letter short, it will help the writer keep their focus concise.
Sixth, close the letter by thanking the reader for their time.
Devina strives to make information relevant to the lives of her clients easily accessible.