What Is It Like to Be A Mitigation Witness?
To appreciate the value a mitigation specialist brings to the table, picture this scenario.
As you read this, think back, just for a moment, upon one of the worst decisions you ever made in your life—one that you’d gladly erase from your personal ‘recycle bin,’ if only you could. Reflect upon the aftermath of that decision, and how it affected your loved ones, co-workers, or other significant persons. Let the moment sink back into your consciousness, and let yourself feel a sample of the shame, guilt, embarrassment, self-loathing, and every other bad emotion that you went through back then. Still not a very good feeling, even after all this time, is it?
Now imagine a total stranger coming to your doorstep one day—at a time when life is overwhelming you already, especially when you have a loved one who is fighting for his life in a capital murder case—and asking that you tell him or her the story of that bad decision, in all its agonizing detail. Would YOU be able to tell the entire story in one sitting? And even if you were able, how willing would you be?
Let’s take it a step further. Imagine being told by that stranger that, later on, you’ll be asked to tell your story to X number of other strangers, folks with titles like “penalty phase counsel” and “forensic psychologist” and so on. Then, one day, you may be asked to one day tell your story to twelve other total strangers sitting in a jury box, in the uncomfortable space of a criminal courtroom, on behalf of that loved one who is fighting for his or her life.
And to make matters worse, imagine that stranger saying that, one day, you may have to tell those “twelve other total strangers” the stories, not only behind that one decision, but behind every other bad decision or embarrassing moment that adversely shaped your life, or the lives of people close to you. In essence, you’re placing the worst aspects of your life on display before the public, in one of the most unforgiving forums you can imagine, on behalf of a loved one whom a government agency is seeking to kill.
Can you imagine a more brutally painful task than this?
This is why rapport-building over time is indispensable to the mitigation specialist. You’d never open up and tell the sordid side of your life to that total stranger, or any other, during the first or second or even third meeting. You’d want to know that you’re not being judged for your past mistakes, that you’ll be treated fairly by the system, and that what you have to say can help save your loved one’s life. This is where the consistent, supportive contact with the mitigation specialist makes all the difference in the world.