We believe that every person has a reason for their actions. While it may not be a reason that automatically gets them out of trouble, understanding their background and what led them to that fork in the road enables jurors to make life or death decisions based on insight and understanding instead of fear and assumption.
Mitigation Specialists are born; they are not made. Mitigation Specialists are charged with the critically important task of investigating capital defendants’ life stories and are an indispensable part of any competent capital defense team. As the Supreme Court has held, our job is to uncover the "possibility of compassionate or mitigating factors stemming from the diverse frailties of humankind." Mitigation Specialists possess clinical and information-gathering skills and training that most lawyers simply do not have. They have the time and the ability to elicit sensitive, embarrassing and often humiliating evidence (e.g., family sexual abuse) that the defendant may have never disclosed. They have the clinical skills to recognize such things as congenital, mental or neurological conditions, to understand how these conditions may have affected the defendant’s development and behavior, and to identify the most appropriate experts to examine the defendant or testify on his behalf. Moreover, the Mitigation Specialist is critical to assuring that the client obtains therapeutic services that render him/her cognitively and emotionally competent to make sound decisions concerning his/her case. Perhaps most critically, having a qualified Mitigation Specialist assigned to every capital case as an integral part of the defense team insures that the presentation to be made at the penalty phase is integrated into the overall preparation of the case rather than being hurriedly thrown together by defense counsel still in shock at the guilty verdict.
- Maintains close contact with the client and his/her family while the case is pending. The rapport developed in this process can be the key to persuading a client to accept a plea to a sentence less than death.
- Compiles a comprehensive and well-documented psycho-social history of the client based on exhaustive investigation.
- Analyzes the significance of the information in terms of impact on development, including effect on personality and behavior.
- Finds mitigating themes in the client’s life history.
Identifies the need for expert assistance.
- Assists in locating appropriate experts.
- Provides social history information to experts to enable them to conduct competent and reliable evaluations.
- Works with defense team and experts to develop a comprehensive and cohesive case in mitigation.
For all of the above reasons the use of a mitigation specialist has become “part of the existing standard of care” in capital cases, ensuring “high quality investigation and preparation of the penalty phase.” The power of mitigation evidence has been demonstrated anecdotally when jurors have returned life sentences in numerous high-profile cases.