SAN ANTONIO – Most people have not heard of mitigation specialists, but they have a vital role in determining whether a person lives or dies.
They have become an important part of death penalty cases. They’re role is to explore evidence that portrays defendants in a favorable light.
“The search for justice also includes the idea of mercy,” said mitigation specialist Juandalynn Taylor. “We want to provide the notion of humanity even though sometimes the individual didn’t do the same for their victim.”
In a 2003 revision of their guidelines, the American Bar Association said that a mitigation specialist should be one of the components of the defense team in death penalty cases.
Their role is to develop mitigating evidence based not just on what the person on trial provides.
“We don’t rely on just the person’s word,” Taylor said. “We do extensive document collection including looking at a person’s immediate family including going three generations back from that person.”
Taylor admitted that they often have an uphill climb when it comes to juries.
“Juries are absolutely skeptical of the defense side because they feel like we’re making excuses,” she said.
“It doesn’t mean that we are excuse makers and it doesn’t mean that we are not to ensure that society is not protected,” Taylor explained. “We are there to ensure that society is protected.”
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