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Criminal Defense Mitigation

You have heard the old adage, “children are like sponges” illustrating their susceptibility to the environment in their formative years. Parents and caregivers have the moral responsibility to nurture and provide the security a child requires to foster healthy growth and interactions. However, a void in adequate parenting will impact a child’s behavior and personality for years to come. At an early age, the child may have suffered from repeated and continuous exposure to domestic violence, sexual abuse, substance abuse or addiction, untreated mental illness and any assortment of development disorder and or trauma. The effects of these are often compounded by uncontrollable social issues such as poverty, racism, educational failure, and/or exposure to environmental hazards. Further, coupled with a genetic predisposition to mental illness, a child’s mind and perceptions will shatter like an eggshell. That child may be your client.

The diligent Mitigation Specialist will investigate and uncover aspects of the client’s formative years which have invisibly but seriously damaged early development and impaired his judgment and emotional maturity. Making a client less able to function as a whole, healthy, law-abiding adult, his dysfunction will likely surface in the form of substance abuse and/or frequent anti-social behavior.

The Law Office of Aisha Khan-Sajjad provides comprehensive criminal defense mitigation services to uncover the compelling mitigation story in your client’s case. Our comprehensive mitigation investigation strives to uncover evidence to convince the prosecution that the client is deserving of a lesser sentence or alternatives to incarceration. We work closely with trial counsel to assist in developing case strategies to facilitate plea negotiations and agreements. If your case is going to trial, we can assist in the preparation of the guilt phase in addition to the punishment phase. Additionally, we work hard to identify and enlist appropriate experts, such as forensic psychiatrists and psychologists, in order to enhance the presentation and persuasion of your case.


 

Capital Mitigation

Due to the severity and finality of the death sentence, the United States Supreme Court has long recognized that “death is different.” The American Bar Association has defined what constitutes a capital defense team and has assigned a special role to the Mitigation Specialist in capital litigation. The mitigation specialist works with the defense team and experts to develop a comprehensive and cohesive case in mitigation through extensive investigation and analysis of reliable and well-documented information. Having a mitigation specialist who has integrated the dreaded penalty phase into the overall preparation of a death-case from day one is a valuable tool. Not only will a well-developed mitigation case from day one build credibility with jurors, but it will enable trial counsel to enter the sentencing phase with confidence.

In the “Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases,” the American Bar Association has explicitly stated that “The defense team should consist of no fewer than two attorneys qualified in accordance with Guideline 5.1, an investigator, and a mitigation specialist.” In its commentary, the ABA has stated: A mitigation specialist is an indispensable member of the defense team throughout all capital proceedings. Mitigation specialists possess clinical and information-gathering skills and training that most lawyers simply do not have. They have the time and ability to elicit sensitive, embarrassing and often humiliating evidence (e.g., family sexual abuse) that the defendant may never have 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, they may be critical to assuring that the client obtains therapeutic services that render him cognitively and emotionally competent to make sound decisions concerning his case.

Footnote: (2003 revision of the ABA; Guideline 4.1—The Defense Team and Supporting Services and commentary)

Further, the mitigation specialist often plays an additional role in maintain rapport with the family and witnesses as well as close contact with the client, while the case is pending. The relationship that a defense team fosters through a personable Mitigation Specialist can be a highly instrumental in persuading a client to accept a plea to a sentence less than death. As such, the mitigation specialists has become “ part of the existing ‘standard of care’” in capital cases, ensuring “high quality investigation and preparation of the penalty phase.” (Guidelines, Commentary: The Core Defense Team: (B) The Mitigation Specialist)

Overall, the Mitigation Specialist is a powerful tool in trial counsel’s arsenal. Having diligent and effective Mitigation Specialist will allow trial counsel to focus on the tedious preparation required for a capital trial. The preparation for punishment by way of a knowledgeable Mitigation Specialist embodies the high quality representation envisioned by the American Bar Association.

Go to http://www.nasams.org/about_nasams/about_history for an overview of the history of defense-based sentencing advocacy and the emergence of the mitigation specialist as a key member of the capital defense team.

Capital Mitigation Services :

  • Comprehensive Investigation and Records Collection on the client plus three generations prior
  • Compilation of psycho-social history and life chronology
  • Interview all potential mitigation witnesses
  • Analyze information for its impact on development, personality, and behavior
  • Determine mitigating themes
  • Identify experts and enable evaluators to navigate records and conduct reliable evaluations
  • Preparation of mitigation witness testimony for punishment phase
  • Preparation of expert witness testimony for punishment phase
  • Identification of critical exhibits (punishment and culpability phases)
  • Serve as a liaison between the client and his family and the defense team


Non-Capital Mitigation

A Mitigation Specialist can conduct a thorough investigation to uncover the compelling mitigation story in your case and prove to be instrumental in facilitating a plea, lesser sentence or alternatives to incarceration. We work closely with your defense team to develop case strategies and develop a persuasive mitigation case from day-one. Each case should be considered on its own merits, taking into account the nature and circumstances of the offense, the potential penalty, and any unusual or unique aspects of the person’s character or background that the sentencing body will consider.

The mitigation specialist not only uncovers records and witnesses which will illustrate the client’s mitigation story, but will also identify and enlist experts, such as forensic psychiatrists and psychologists, to enhance the presentation and persuasion of your case.

Non-Capital Mitigation Services

  • Comprehensive Investigation and Records Collection on the client plus three generations prior
  • Compilation of psycho-social history and life chronology
  • Interview all potential mitigation witnesses
  • Analyze information for its impact on development, personality, and behavior
  • Determine mitigating themes
  • Identify experts and enable evaluators to navigate records and conduct reliable evaluations
  • Preparation of mitigation witness testimony for punishment phase
  • Preparation of expert witness testimony for punishment phase
  • Identification of critical exhibits (punishment and culpability phases)
  • Serve as a liaison between the client and his family and the defense team
  • Create mitigation packet for consideration during pre-trial negotiations and/or punishment,
  • Adult Criminal Court
  • Juvenile Proceedings
  • Community Supervision
  • Parole
  • Probation