Understanding Defense-Initiated Victim Outreach And Why It Is Essential In Defending A Capital Client (PDF)

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A murder evokes empathy. Upon first hearing of a murder in our communities, we immediately feel sadness and loss and an outpouring of feeling for the people who loved the victim. We shudder with them. We feel drawn to express sympathy. We cry. Most people feel, shortly thereafter, “Why did someone do this?” “How could he (we usually think, ‘he’)?” “What sort of monster is he?” As people engaged in capital defense work, we think about the murderer as well, but in different terms—how traumatized this person must have been, how unloved, un-nurtured, and impaired, how hurt he must have been. One of us is then appointed to represent this person. We turn all our attention to the tasks of representation—assembling a defense team, interviewing and working with our client, investigating the crime and our client’s life, getting and pouring through discovery, preparing and filing motions, putting on hearings, preparing for trial, pursuing pleas, going to trial— and we forget or repress those first feelings we had, of sadness, loss, and empathy.

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