What Is A Mitigation Consultant?
In 34 states and in Federal and military courts, a person convicted of first-degree murder may potentially face a sentence of death—the most severe sanction provided by our system of criminal justice. Because of the severity and finality of such a sanction, the United States Supreme Court has long recognized that additional layers of due process are required in capital murder cases. Extra resources must be provided to those who represent capital defendants, or assist them in doing so. Higher professional standards ensure that only the most qualified, experienced attorneys are available to represent indigent clients in such serious matters. Extra layers of judicial scrutiny are required to ensure fairness at every stage. In these and countless other areas, the adage, “death is different,” is more than just a courthouse cliché.
In Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 596 (1980), Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104 (1982), and several subsequent decisions, the Supreme Court has held that mitigating evidence—that which supports a case for life imprisonment over a death sentence—is not limited to those factors which may be set out in a statute. Rather, it may include “any aspect of a defendant’s character or record and any of the circumstances of the offense that the defendant proffers as a basis for a sentence less than death.” Lockett, at 604-05 (emphasis added). As such, the potential field of mitigating evidence for any given client is limited only by the facts and circumstances of the client’s life, and the creativity and imagination of the defense team.
One of the key members of any capital defense team is the mitigation specialist, or mitigation consultant. (The terms are interchangeable.) A mitigation specialist is a person who, by experience or training, provides specialized consulting and investigative services to capital defense teams, in order to uncover admissible, reliable mitigation evidence and to assist in developing effective themes and strategies for presentation of such evidence at trial.