A Former Alabama Appellate Judge’s Perspective On The Mitigation Function In Capital Cases (PDF)

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I have reviewed the Supplementary Guidelines for the Mitigation Function of Defense Teams in Death Penalty Cases (“Supplementary Guidelines”) from the perspective of a former presiding judge of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals who has retired from the bench and has since participated in the defense of indigent prisoners in capital cases. The Supplementary Guidelines are consistent with the wellestablished and quite obvious judicial philosophy that “[h]ighly relevant—if not essential—to [the judge’s] selection of an appropriate sentence is the possession of the fullest information possible concerning the defendant’s life and characteristics.”

I have always firmly believed that judges and juries should have as much information as possible before determining whether a defendant should live or die: The knowledge of the life of a man, his background and his family, is the only proper basis for the determination as to his treatment. There is no substitute for information. The sentencing judge in the federal court has the tools with which to acquire that information. Failure to make full use of those tools cannot be justified.

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