Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A blog for PIs and writers/readers of the PI genre

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Answering Writer’s Question about Death Penalty Litigation and Mitigation Packages

Posted by Writing PIs on October 2, 2010

Writer’s Question: I’ve read that some PIs specialize in developing sentencing/mitigation packages. What does this involve?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Most often in death penalty litigation, juries need to be given reasons why a convicted murderer should not be put to death.  The need to mitigate sentences also arises in less serious cases, such as domestic violence and drunk driving cases.  A mitigation package is a comprehensive collection of the defendant’s life history, relationship with the victim, instances of abuse, health and psychological information, psychological testing results, instances of good behavior (to name a few things) that is presented to the prosecutors and jury so that the ultimate penalty possible for that crime (from death at the most extreme, to weeks in the county jail) is decreased.  Why do this?  The criminal law treats sentencing in criminal cases with a holistic view of the defendant’s life.  Thus, a mentally retarded 14-year-old who has experienced gross abuse and neglect his entire life is less likely to be put to death for killing 5 people than a privileged, college-educated 40-year-old with no such background of abuse.  It is the investigator’s job in a mitigation setting to gather the evidence, history, medical records for a mitigation package.  There are numerous investigators who specialize in mitigation packages, many of these PIs work for public defender and capital defense projects.


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