Over the past 16 months or so, most federal sentencing hearings have been conducted via Zoom. Sure, some judges have conducted in person sentencings. But mostly, it’s been over a video screen. At first, many defense lawyers objected and said that it would be hard to get a fair sentencing over Zoom. How could you really humanize your client over the computer. But then it became clear that with some judges, sentencing over Zoom during COVID resulted in a lower than usual sentence.
It would be really interesting to see the stats for sentences during the pandemic. And if the sentences were generally lower, was that in spite of video screens (and mostly due to not wanting to burden prisons with long sentences during the pandemic) or is Zoom a more effective way to make a sentencing presentation?
Here’s an interesting article about empathy and video screens, by Susan Bandes and Neal Feigenson: Empathy and Remote Legal Proceedings, 51 Southwestern Law Review Issue 1 ( (Symposium on Courts in the COVID-19 Era). Forthcoming December, 2021.From the abstract: