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Hofstra Law Review

Abstract

This article appears in the Hofstra Law Review symposium issue on the Supplementary Guidelines for the Mitigation Function of Defense Teams in Death Penalty cases.

Writing from the perspective of a federal trial judge, the author, who is Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, describes the crucial importance of mitigation development in the trial of a capital case in accordance with the ABA's Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases reprinted in 31 Hofstra L. Rev. 913 (2003) and the Supplementary Guidelines that are the subject of this issue - and the concomitant need for judges to fully fund the needed investigations from the outset. The early appointment of a mitigation specialist is a judicious, wise, and cost-effective way of assuring that defendants in capital cases will be competently represented. The numerous beneficial effects include increased accuracy and justice in charging and sentencing decisions; reductions in overall cost, both because work is performed by the team members able to do it most effectively and because the fruits of the investigation may show the defendant to be ineligible for the death penalty and/or lead to a negotiated disposition; and the avoidance of reversible error.

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