Most of those serving life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles who responded to Human Rights Watchs survey reflected on the pain caused to victims and victim family members. When we asked, If you could communicate with the family of the victim(s) or any surviving victims, what would you say? most took the opportunity to express sorrow and remorse. The apologies came in the context of no possible benefit to the person writing, and yet, the vast majority chose to answer the question: 110 of the 127 survey responses contained apologies. What follows is a representative sample of the responses.
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I wouldn't know where to begin. To apologize would never be enough, but perhaps it could be a start. I would want to let all the individuals affected to know I'm the only one to blame for my actions. I never intended for the outcome to occur. I would do anything to change it, even giving my life to replace all those lost and affected. I know that I have been given a lot of mercy already by being able to continue my life, but there isn't a day that I don't think about the pain my actions have caused and feel the guilt of that I have no joy in the idea that I'm alive and [Adam] is not, and that has nothing to do with me being in prison.
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Every night that I lay my head down I think of the wrongs I have committed. I ask God to convey to my victims my deepest apologies. To bring peace, happiness and strength to their lives. I'm truly sorry for the person I was I offer no excuse for my behavior, only remorse for the wrongs I've committed. I would not dare ask you to forgive me, however, every day that I'm alive I will try to be a better person than I was the day before.
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That I'm deeply sorry. I know I ruined their lives.
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I told the family my crime was an accident, when I saw them in court. I also apologized. I was crying at the time and couldn't say all I wanted to say, so I wrote the victim's wife a 10 page apology, trying to explain my actions. It was returned unopened, and I can understand that.
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I apologize for being a part of all this pain caused, for not stepping in and being a man and stopping [the murder from happening].
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An apology can't bring back the lives that were lost. I have come to believe in the cause to value and respect life, and such a belief changed the way I live. Don't take it wrong, but would you give me your blessing to allow their undeserved deaths to be my motivation to endure and do right by others?
I would say how sorry I was for what I did. I did this at my trial I wrote a letter to the family but you couldn't understand it because [at the time] I couldn't read or write.
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I live with the guilt and horror of the crime everyday of my life. Please forgive me?
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All I can offer you are words which in no way could repair the loss you've endured, the pain and suffering that has encompassed your existence I've had time to sit and grow up abundantly in the last ten years. I've seen and felt what pain is. I'm in no way claiming I can relate to the exacts of your plight, but do know pain and I'm truly sorry for what you and your family went through and are still going through...I'll end this by stating again, I am earnestly sorry for your loss!
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The pain I caused is inexcusable. I do apologize please understand I was young and haven't the clue to what I was doing. I have destroyed your lives and I am sorry.
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I'm sorry for [your] loss and thank you for being honest during trial.
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I would again like to apologize for the loss of a child, a sibling. Although they could probably never forgive me for what happened, I would ask for their forgiveness and explain to them the deep sorrow that I feel and will continue to feel for the rest of my life I now know where I went wrong in my life and that I do indeed take full responsibility for my ignorance, my immaturity, my recklessness, my self-centeredness, my shallowness, my lack of respect for others, my carelessness, and most importantly my fear of responsibility in general, and that I am sorry that I did not possess the internal strength to make the right decisions in my life that would later affect your lives and everyone in my own.
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I don't know. I think the victim's family would feel too emotionally hurt to believe me if I said I regret their loved one's loss.
177 Survey response from Brian C., serving life without parole, to Human Rights Watch, July 24, 2007. A pseudonym is used for the victims name.
178 Survey response from Billy G., serving life without parole, to Human Rights Watch, August 20, 2007 .
179 Survey response from Andy D., serving life without parole, to Human Rights Watch, July 25, 2007.
180 Survey response from Thomas H., serving life without parole, to Human Rights Watch, July 24, 2007.
181 Survey response from Joseph M., serving life without parole, to Human Rights Watch, July 26, 2007.
182 Survey response from Yekonya H., serving life without parole, to Human Rights Watch, July 26, 2007.
183 Survey response from Franklin H., serving life without parole, to Human Rights Watch, July 25, 2007.
184 Survey response from Rudy L., serving life without parole, to Human Rights Watch, July 29, 2007.
185 Survey response from Sparker T., serving life without parole, to Human Rights Watch, August 4, 2007.
186 Survey response from Ezra B., serving life without parole, to Human Rights Watch, July 25, 2007.
187 Survey response from Chris D., serving life without parole, to Human Rights Watch, July 29, 2007.
188 Survey response from Patrick C., serving life without parole, to Human Rights Watch, July 25, 2007.
189 Survey response from Pablo L., serving life without parole, to Human Rights Watch, July 26, 2007.