3 Factors That Can Promote Leniency In Capital Cases

Law Blog

Capital cases are one of the hardest criminal trials, both in terms of the guilt/innocence phase and punishment. Sometimes, what you do before and during the trial can mean the difference between life and death for the defendant.

Defendant Coaching

If the defendant will take the stand at any point during the trial or sentencing phase, they should be prepared with coaching. Part of coaching may be altering the look of the defendant so they appear less threatening to the jury. Typically defendants are encouraged to dress up for their court appearance and wear business attire. Other tactics that might soften the look of the defendant is to have them grow their hair out and remove any facial hair, if applicable. Glasses can soften the appearance of a defendant by making them look more mature and studious. If possible, covering any visible tattoos with makeup will be helpful. Face and neck tattoos can be the most harmful to the defendant. Coaching also involves instructing the defendant how to act on the stand. They should remain courteous and avoid the use of slang and profanity.

Mitigation Evidence

A good defense in capital cases will include mitigation evidence. What is useful mitigation will depend on the characteristics of the defendant. With more information being available about childhood abuse and mental health concerns, especially among veterans, these issues are worth bringing up during mitigation. If there is a history of neglect, parental drug use, and/or abuse, it may help to have at least one witness that can speak about these issues from experience. This can include a sibling who faced similar childhood trauma or a parent who is willing to admit they were a perpetrator of abuse. For mental illness, expert witnesses who can explain the problem and the need for treatment in a way jurors can understand and empathize with is a must.

Jury Selection

Certain demographics of people are considered to be more lenient in terms of sentencing. The people you want on your jury may also be affected by the details of the crime and who will be called as witnesses. Women are considered to be more sympathetic, but in cases involving women and children, this may work against the defendant during sentencing. If you plan to have a character witness for the defense that is a parent or other relative, they may be capable of garnering some sympathy from a jury. You will want some jurors that have children and may be capable of imagining themselves in a similar situation. Since capital punishment is on the decline in favor of life imprisonment without parole, this option may be more appealing to jurors who are less conservative.

Capital cases are rarely about guilt or innocence, with most of the efforts going into saving the defendant's life. In some cases, careful selection of jurors, coaching the defendant, and good mitigation evidence can make a difference.

For more information about jury selection, contact a jury selection service.


10 March 2020

Do You Understand The Law?

When it comes to your personal rights, how much do you really understand the law. About ten years ago, I realized that I didn't really understand my rights when I was accused of something that I knew I didn't do. I could tell that I needed to work with a lawyer who had a better understanding of what I was up against, so I contacted a local team that could help. They were really incredible to work with, and I was impressed with how well they were able to fight the charges. This blog is here for anyone struggling with legal drama.