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Expanded the Horizons of Capital Defense: Why Defense Teams Should Be Concerned About Victims and Surviviors
By Richard Burr
The consequence of murder — the loss of life, and the impact on those who loved and depended on the murder victim — is the harm that gives rise to a capital prosecution. Capital prosecutions often have other purposes, such as retribution, the advancement of political agendas, purported societal protection, or ill-conceived efforts to redress particular societal breakdowns such as drug or gang-related violence. However, the fundamental harm — the loss of life and the impact on survivors — is the reason a prosecution commences.
We can and often do defend our clients without addressing this harm. Instead, we focus on: whether our client was actually involved in the killing; whether he was solely responsible or shared responsibility with others; whether he was mentally and emotionally impaired and thus less blameworthy; how pain and deprivation in the client’s life somehow led to involvement in the crime; and how his life is worth sparing because of the potential to do better. This does no
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