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Remorse and the Production of Truth

NCJ Number
Punishment and Society Volume: 12 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2010 Pages: 414-437
Joane Martel
Date Published
October 2010
24 pages
This article utilizes a 1994 case out of Canada to reflect on confession as a traditional focal point of criminal law and penal theories and to argue that confession may be construed as a discursive transaction distinct from other forms of legal transactions.
This article reflects on the confession as a traditional focal point of criminal law and penal theories. Specifically, it questions the privileged status traditionally conferred to the confession within the hierarchy of legal proof and punishment as a remnant of Christian influence which should be made visible. This reflection draws on the case of Robert Latimer, one of the few judicial cases historically to have polarized Canadian public opinion. After serving 7 years in a Federal penitentiary for the 'mercy killing' of his 12-year-old severally handicapped daughter, Saskatchewan farmer, Robert Latimer, was denied day parole by the National Parole Board of Canada on 5 December 2007. Despite in-prison psychological and parole reports confirming Latimer's low risk to reoffend, parole board members denied his request on the apparent sole basis that he had not developed sufficient remorse. This case highlights how remorse, as a particular discursive transaction, is an obligatory passage point or an oral corroboration indispensable to complete the written demonstration (i.e. psychological and parole reports) of an offender's successful integration of the 'truth' about her and her crime. Hence, remorse may constitute the only valuable way for offenders to re-take their place within the ritual of 'Truth' production. (Published Abstract) Figures, notes, and references