chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
April 18, 2018

2008 Guideline 10.11


A. It is the duty of the defense team to aid counsel in coordinating and integrating the case for life with the guilt or innocence phase strategy.

B. The defense team must conduct an ongoing, exhaustive and independent investigation of every aspect of the client’s character, history, record and any circumstances of the offense, or other factors, which may provide a basis for a sentence less than death. The investigation into a client’s life history must survey a broad set of sources and includes, but is not limited to: medical history; complete prenatal, pediatric and adult health information; exposure to harmful substances in utero and in the environment; substance abuse history; mental health history; history of maltreatment and neglect; trauma history; educational history; employment and training history; military experience; multi-generational family history, genetic disorders and vulnerabilities, as well as multi-generational patterns of behavior; prior adult and juvenile correctional experience; religious, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic, racial, cultural and community influences; socio-economic, historical, and political factors.

C. Team members must conduct in-person, face-to-face, one-on-one interviews with the client, the client’s family, and other witnesses who are familiar with the client’s life, history, or family history or who would support a sentence less than death. Multiple interviews will be necessary to establish trust, elicit sensitive information and conduct a thorough and reliable life-history investigation. Team members must endeavor to establish the rapport with the client and witnesses that will be necessary to provide the client with a defense in accordance with constitutional guarantees relevant to a capital sentencing proceeding.

D. Team members must provide counsel with documentary evidence of the investigation through the use of such methods as genealogies, social history reports, chronologies and reports on relevant subjects including, but not limited to, cultural, socioeconomic, environmental, racial, and religious issues in the client’s life. The manner in which information is provided to counsel is determined on a case by case basis, in consultation with counsel, considering jurisdictional practices, discovery rules and policies.

E. It is the duty of the defense team members to aid counsel in the selection and preparation of witnesses who will testify, including but not limited to:

1. Expert witnesses, or witnesses with specialized training or experience in a particular subject matter. Such experts include, but are not limited to:

a. Medical doctors, psychologists, toxicologists, pharmacologists, social workers and persons with specialized knowledge of medical conditions, mental illnesses and impairments; substance abuse, physical, emotional and sexual maltreatment, trauma and the effects of such factors on the client’s development and functioning.

b. Anthropologists, sociologists and persons with expertise in a particular race, culture, ethnicity, religion.

c. Persons with specialized knowledge of specific communities or expertise in the effect of environments and neighborhoods upon their inhabitants. d. Persons with specialized knowledge of institutional life, either generally or within a specific institution.

2. Lay witnesses, or witnesses who are familiar with the defendant or his family, including but not limited to:

a. The client’s family, extending at least three generations back, and those familiar with the client;

b. The client’s friends, teachers, classmates, co-workers, employers, and those who served in the military with the client, as well as others who are familiar with the client’s early and current development and functioning, medical history, environmental history, mental health history, educational history, employment and training history, military experience and religious, racial, and cultural experiences and influences upon the client or the client’s family;

c. Social service and treatment providers to the client and the client’s family members, including doctors, nurses, other medical staff, social workers, and housing or welfare officials;

d. Witnesses familiar with the client’s prior juvenile and criminal justice and correctional experiences;

e. Former and current neighbors of the client and the client’s family, community members, and others familiar with the neighborhoods in which the client lived, including the type of housing, the economic status of the community, the availability of employment and the prevalence of violence;

f. Witnesses who can testify about the applicable alternative to a death sentence and/or the conditions under which the alternative sentence would be served;

g. Witnesses who can testify about the adverse impact of the client’s execution on the client’s family and loved ones.

F. It is the duty of team members to gather documentation to support the testimony of expert and lay witnesses, including, but not limited to, school, medical, employment, military, and social service records, in order to provide medical, psychological, sociological, cultural or other insights into the client’s mental and/or emotional state, intellectual capacity, and life history that may explain or diminish the client’s culpability for his conduct, demonstrate the absence of aggressive patterns in the client’s behavior, show the client’s capacity for empathy, depict the client’s remorse, illustrate the client’s desire to function in the world, give a favorable opinion as to the client’s capacity for rehabilitation or adaptation to prison, explain possible treatment programs, rebut or explain evidence presented by the prosecutor, or otherwise support a sentence less than death.

G. It is the duty of the team members to aid counsel in preparing and gathering demonstrative evidence, such as photographs, videotapes 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.

Cross References:

ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases 4.1—The Defense Team and Supporting Services; 10.7—Investigation; 10.10.1—Trial Preparation Overall; 10.11—The Defense Case Concerning Penalty.