What Is It Like to Be A Mitigation Witness?
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 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 later tell your story to X number of other strangers 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, in the uncomforting space of a criminal courtroom, on behalf of that loved one who is fighting for his life.
And to make matters worse, imagine that stranger saying that, one day, you may have to tell all of these other 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?