Long ago, I worked a mitigation investigation with another investigator who informed me that we needed medical and education records on the defendant ‘and that’s it.’ I wondered about that then. Now, years later, I know an excellent mitigation investigation includes ALL the records.

Records can contain the keys to the story of an individual’s life. The mother’s pregnancy and delivery records can uncover birth, congenital and accidental traumas. Lack of oxygen during birthing can cause a host of physical and psychological conditions that may not be as apparent when an individual reaches adulthood and beyond. School psychology records can reveal issues at home and a lack of understanding by parents regarding special needs. Children’s Protective Services records are essential because they tell the stories the family may be reluctant to disclose, such as substance abuse, family violence, or food scarcity. Religious records can help trace a family’s culture and belief systems.

We look to marriage and divorce records from both the defendant and the parents of the defendant to give us a timeline of events, significant moves, and insight into the parents’ experiences. We review death certificates looking for causes of death, traumatic life events, and substance abuse.

As people become adults, we look to employment, military, and detention records. All of these seemingly meaningless pieces of paper can reveal good character, loyalty, trustworthiness, trauma, rehabilitation readiness, and more. If the defendant has a history of mental illness, all prior mental health records from counseling, hospitalizations, and commitments should be obtained. Diagnoses can change over time, as well as recommendations for medication and therapy. Sometimes, a change in medication or the loss of one long time therapist can be a catalyst for considerable swings in behavior. We look for all records in which the defendant was the victim. These critical stories can show how a defendant was regarded in the community, at home, school, and at work.

Collecting and analyzing all records should be an integral part of every mitigation investigation. These documents will lead the investigator to crucial collateral witnesses: teachers, family members, doctors, clergy, co-defendants, neighbors, mentors, supervisors, etc., all of whom have their own stories to tell about the defendant. They support a timeline of events for the defendant and help fill in the vital life story pieces. All records should be obtained. Keep digging. One record could make the difference between a lifetime of detention and a reduced or alternative sentence.

When you need a mitigation specialist that obtains ALL the records for you to get the best results for your clients, call Downward Departure Specialists at 916-224-4680.