Crimes are frequently committed under ďmitigatingĒ
circumstances which do not justify or excuse the
offense, but go a long way to explain the defendantís
behavior or to provide an understanding for why he or
she may have ended up committing the particular offense.
For example, when a starving man steals bread to satisfy
his hunger, this circumstance is taken into
consideration in mitigation of his sentence.
In Texas, courts are required to take into consideration
several statutorily identified mitigating factors,
The age of the defendant.
The defendant's capacity to appreciate the
wrongfulness of the defendantís conduct or to
conform the defendantís conduct to the requirements
of law was significantly impaired, but not so
impaired as to constitute a defense to prosecution.
The defendant was under unusual or substantial
duress, although not such as to constitute a defense
The degree of the defendantís participation in the
crime was minor, although not so minor as to
constitute a defense to prosecution.
Any other factor that the court deems appropriate to
the ends of justice.
Additionally, Texas courts have recognized numerous
non-statutory mitigating factors including:
We will attempt to persuade the prosecuting attorney and
court through the presentation of evidence of mitigating
circumstances that a lenient sentence is appropriate
based upon the defendantís unique background and
circumstances. The most persuasive manner in obtaining
this objective is to present a thorough, thoughtful, and
competent mitigation packet to the prosecuting attorney
In those cases where the preliminary review of the
evidence suggests the defendant may ultimately be
convicted, the attorney should immediately start
thinking about collecting mitigation evidence. Many
defense attorneys minimize the importance of mitigation
evidence early in their representation. However, in many
cases there is nothing more important. Because the
collection of mitigation evidence, through interviews
and record searches, is both time consuming and often
requires special knowledge and expertise, attorneys
often retain an experienced mitigation specialist to
join the defense team.
A mitigation specialist is an expert qualified by
knowledge, skill, experience, and training as a criminal
justice, mental health or sociology professional. Their
experience is to investigate, evaluate, and present
factual, psychological and other mitigating
circumstances to persuade the court that for this
particular defendant, a certain sentence may be unduly
harsh and, thus, inappropriate.
Mitigation evidence necessary for a proper and thorough
mitigation packet (or penalty presentation) can
be voluminous. The mitigation evidence is in effect a
collection of the defendantís and his or her familyís
life history. This evidence should consist of
information, documentation, and public records
pertaining to relevant aspects of the defendantís
social, educational, medical, and mental health
Examples of the records that are often sought may
include the following:
Juvenile court records
Mental health records
you or someone you know would like to discuss your
sentence mitigation case, please contact The Sheena Law