GUIDELINE 10.11 – THE DEFENSE CASE CONCERNING PENALTY
A. As set out in Guideline 10.7(A), counsel at every stage of the case have a continuing duty to investigate issues bearing upon penalty and to seek information that supports mitigation or rebuts the prosecution’s case in aggravation.
B. Trial counsel should discuss with the client early in the case the sentencing alternatives available, and the relationship between the strategy for the sentencing phase and for the guilt/innocence phase.
C. Prior to the sentencing phase, trial counsel should discuss with the client the specific sentencing phase procedures of the jurisdiction and advise the client of steps being taken in preparation for sentencing.
D. Counsel at every stage of the case should discuss with the client the content and purpose of the information concerning penalty that they intend to present to the sentencing or reviewing body or individual, means by which the mitigation presentation might be strengthened, and the strategy for meeting the prosecution’s case in aggravation.
E. Counsel should consider, and discuss with the client, the possible consequences of having the client testify or make a statement to the sentencing or reviewing body or individual.
F. In deciding which witnesses and evidence to prepare concerning penalty, the areas counsel should consider include the following:
1. Witnesses familiar with and evidence relating to the client’s life and development, from conception to the time of sentencing, that would be explanatory of the offense(s) for which the client is being sentenced, would rebut or explain evidence presented by the prosecutor, would present positive aspects of the client’s life, or would otherwise support a sentence less than death;
2. Expert and lay witnesses along with supporting documentation (e.g. school records, military records) to provide medical, psychological, sociological, cultural or other insights into the client’s mental and/or emotional state and life history that may explain or lessen the client’s culpability for the underlying offense(s); to give a favorable opinion as to the client’s capacity for rehabilitation, or adaptation to prison; to explain possible treatment programs; or otherwise support a sentence less than death; and/or to rebut or explain evidence presented by the prosecutor;
3. Witnesses who can testify about the applicable alternative to a death sentence and/or the conditions under which the alternative sentence would be served;
4. Witnesses who can testify about the adverse impact of the client’s execution on the client’s family and loved ones.
5. Demonstrative evidence, such as photos, videos, and physical objects (e.g., trophies, artwork, military medals), and documents that humanize the client or portray him positively, such as certificates of earned awards, favorable press accounts, and letters of praise or reference.
G. In determining what presentation to make concerning penalty, counsel should consider whether any portion of the defense case will open the door to the prosecution’s presentation of otherwise inadmissible aggravating evidence. Counsel should pursue all appropriate means (e.g., motions in limine) to ensure that the defense case concerning penalty is constricted as little as possible by this consideration, and should make a full record in order to support any subsequent challenges.
H. Trial counsel should determine at the earliest possible time what aggravating factors the prosecution will rely upon in seeking the death penalty and what evidence will be offered in support thereof. If the jurisdiction has rules regarding notification of these factors, counsel at all stages of the case should object to any non-compliance, and if such rules are inadequate, counsel at all stages of the case should challenge the adequacy of the rules.
I. Counsel at all stages of the case should carefully consider whether all or part of the aggravating evidence may appropriately be challenged as improper, inaccurate, misleading or not legally admissible.
J. If the prosecution is granted leave at any stage of the case to have the client interviewed by witnesses associated with the government, defense counsel should:
1. carefully consider
a. what legal challenges may appropriately be made to the interview or the conditions surrounding it, and
b. the legal and strategic issues implicated by the client’s co-operation or non-cooperation;
2. insure that the client understands the significance of any statements made during such an interview ; and
3. attend the interview.
K. Trial counsel should request jury instructions and verdict forms that ensure that jurors will be able to consider and give effect to all relevant mitigating evidence. Trial counsel should object to instructions or verdict forms that are constitutionally flawed, or are inaccurate, or confusing and should offer alternative instructions. Post-conviction counsel should pursue these issues through factual investigation and legal argument.
L. Counsel at every stage of the case should take advantage of all appropriate opportunities to argue why death is not suitable punishment for their particular client.