Being charged with a crime in Philadelphia can make even the strongest of people feel as if their world is collapsing. Wimmer Criminal Defense, the preeminent criminal defense law firm in Philadelphia, has put together the below guide to help you become acquainted with some of the terms you may hear as you navigate the…
Representation for Death Penalty Sentencing Mitigation
How can Wimmer Criminal Defense provide valuable service and representation for death penalty sentencing mitigation for you or your loved one? If you or someone you love have been sentenced to a penalty of a death due to a conviction for serious crimes, considering ways to mitigate the ultimate penalty is undoubtedly a source of concern and anxiety. If you are currently facing the death penalty due to a criminal conviction, there is a silver lining. In 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued a moratorium placing all executions in the state on hold. This executive action was upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in December 2015. The moratorium has stayed in effect since this decision meaning executions have not taken place and will not take place at least until the state’s “significant and widely recognized defects” were remedied.
However, it is essential to note that the moratorium on the death penalty did not abolish the penalty. That is, the penalty may be reinstated provided that the concerns regarding the system are addressed and remedied. Therefore, individuals should come to view the moratorium as a temporary reprieve that will allow time to pursue appeals and death penalty sentencing mitigation work.
Our criminal defense attorneys can pursue death penalty sentence mitigation for individuals convicted of serious crimes. To schedule a free and confidential initial case review, please call (215) 712-1212.
What Is Death Penalty Mitigation?
In Furman v. Georgia, the United State Supreme Court temporarily put a halt to executions under the death penalty in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court took this extraordinary action to suspend the carrying out of the death penalty in the United States due to serious issues in the process. In Furman, the U.S. Supreme Court identified serious problems regarding the fundamental fairness of proceedings due to mandatory sentencing statues.
In later proceedings concerning the death penalty in, Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976), Georgia’s death penalty would be reinstated, in part, based on the premise that individual sentencing could allow for mercy. Thus, through the Gregg case, individuals convicted of serious crimes are eligible to present evidence showing that their individualized circumstances do not warrant the death penalty. In Pennsylvania, this right to mitigation proceedings is provided through 42 PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. § 9711(e)(8) stating that “[a]ny other evidence of mitigation concerning the character and record of the defendant and the circumstances of the offense” may be noted.”
When Does Death Penalty Mitigation Occur?
Under Pennsylvania state law, a death penalty sentencing mitigation proceeding can only occur following trial court proceedings. More specifically, a mitigation preceding is appropriate following the entering of a verdict of murder in the first degree, but before the jury is discharged. At this point, the court shall conduct a separate sentencing hearing in which the jury shall determine whether the defendant shall be sentenced to death or life imprisonment. It is at this mitigation proceeding where the court will hear aggravating and mitigating factors to determine is a sentence of death is appropriate.
What Aggravating and Mitigating Factors Will a Pennsylvania Court Consider?
As part of a mitigation proceeding to determine whether the death penalty or a lesser sentence is appropriate, a court will consider both aggravating and mitigating factors. An aggravating factor is a fact or circumstance that makes an individual more deserving of punishment. Some of the aggravating factors a court would consider in a Pennsylvania proceeding are:
- The defendant held the victim hostage or demanded ransom.
- The defendant paid another person or was paid by another person to commit the murder.
- The victim of the crime was a witness in another matter.
- The victim was killed during the commission of a felony.
- The crime involved torture.
- The defendant has a long criminal history.
- The defendant has previously been convicted of murder
- The victim was involved or associated with the sale or manufacture of drugs or controlled dangerous substances.
Conversely, a mitigating factor is a factor that explains or partially justifies why a person acted a certain way. Mitigating factors can reduce the penalty that will be ordered. Mitigating factors raised by a criminal defense attorney in a matter could include:
- A lack of a prior criminal history.
- The defendant was under the influence of extreme mental stress or duress.
- The age of the defendant at the time of the crime.
- The victim participated in the crime that led to his or her death.
- The defendant’s participation in the homicide was minor.
- The defendant lacked the capacity to understand the criminality or cruelty of his or her conduct.
During a death penalty sentencing mitigation hearing a court will consider these factors along with the impact that the death of the victim has had on the family of the victim. Furthermore, the court may consider a broad array of other relevant factors and circumstances. Because mitigation proceedings present a lawyer with broad discretion to enter aggravating and mitigating evidence, it is essential to have an experience attorney present who will fight to protect you from the death penalty. We understand the gravity of what is at stake and will strategically and diligently pursue all reasonable opportunities to mitigate a potential death penalty. We invite you to contact us or call 215-712-1212 for a free consultation today.
If you are facing a potential death penalty
The criminal defense attorneys of Wimmer Criminal Defense may be able to provide representation during mitigation proceedings. To schedule a free and confidential case review, call today