Considering the Criminal Defendant Client as Human
WHAT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEYS SOMETIMES NEGLECT MAY BE COSTLY;
THE COST OF OVERLOOKING MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCE MAY BE “FREEDOM”
When it comes to advocating for justice, I can’t think of many higher callings than the criminal defense attorney. The criminal defense attorney takes on cases when other attorneys shudder and run merely because of the allegations are too horrendous. It’s takes a powerful sense of pride and belief in the institutions of this country to represent someone in a criminal matter. The point of this piece is that advocacy and belief in a client’s innocence, should not be the only factor in preparing his case. The attorney must consider the outcome of a jury’s verdict can be a vote of guilty. Considering mitigating circumstances in the presentation of your client is not only good lawyering, it’s essential in the full preparation of your client’s case.
Mitigation circumstances is anything and everything that makes your client human. It’s his home life, his drug addiction, the incest, the broken marriage, the education or lack thereof. It’s anything and everything to your case. Once jurors see a man presented before them, it’s harder to punish severely. It’s much easier for the prosecutor to paint the client as an animal and throw his meat to the jurors to devour. Our job is to get them to see the person. Some state has now adopted the bifurcated trial where’s there is a guilt/ innocent phase and then a mitigation phase. This staging of sentencing arose out of the capital litigation cases tried where statute mandates that the jury consider mitigating circumstance or “reasons not to kill” as I call it. Now in all trials, in these states whether capital in nature, mitigating circumstances are allowed. My point is to not wait until the jury delivers a verdict of guilty, but start presenting your client as a human being from the beginning of voir dire, commonly known as jury selection. The jury must entertain the idea of humanity. This article is not simply for the attorney but for the parents as well of a child accused of a crime. Let the attorney know the past of the accused. There’s nothing shameful about it. It can mean liberty versus life for the accused.
Herman L. Jimerson