New Resource Available to Tell Your Client’s Story Well – with Observations from Bryan Stevenson
Too often decision making about complex matters in our world and in the criminal justice system is reduced to the minimum, obscured by what people are angry about, and distorted by incomplete information. Too often in the criminal justice system, our client is objectified; he is the crime– not a person who has behaviors and a history. A criminal defense lawyer’s responsibility is to put context on the matter before those exercising discretion.
In most criminal cases, THE issue is sentencing. Bryan Stevenson Executive Director, Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery, AL, and author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Just Mercy (2015) said it best: “One of the most important advances in criminal defense work over the last 40 years has been the evolution of skills, tactics and techniques to contextualize criminal behavior through mitigation narratives. Not only has this work been critical in dramatically reducing the number of death sentences imposed in this country, it's provided lawyers with an important way to think about their clients and the lives of the poor and marginalized who are so over-represented in our system.”
We all have a moral responsibility to help people, especially those who are poor, mentally ill, stigmatized, and others living on the margins of society. More than any other group, they find themselves swept up into the criminal justice system, where they face significant loss of liberty or life. Today’s criminal justice system is encased in complexities that require multiple perspectives for professionals to meet their responsibilities to help clients navigate those complexities. In an increasing number of cases, attorneys no longer exclusively possess the panoply of skills necessary to provide what clients need in this system. They need help from others. A criminal defense team — lawyers, investigator, mitigation specialist (often a social worker) — are needed to learn, develop and present the client’s life history. This has been the standard in capital cases for decades and was recognized formally as the national standard in the 1989 issuing of the ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases. As a result of Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), It is now the standard in juvenile cases facing the harshest of sentences. See Betsy Wilson & Amanda Myers, Accepting Miller’s Invitation: Conducting a Capital-Style Mitigation Investigation in Juvenile-Life-Without-Parole Cases, The Champion 18 (April 2014); Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, Trial Defense Guidelines: Representing a Child Client Facing a Possible Life Sentence (March 2015).
Criminal Defense Teams have a new practical resource to access the wisdom of reflective practitioners, integrated with the substantial capital defense scholarship and research contained in the literature, behavioral and social science research papers, capital training program materials, and law review articles, published over the last forty years. Each author distilled their knowledge in an accessible way so that every defense team reading this book can readily access the ideas of seasoned practitioners and researchers for successfully defending clients facing death or lengthy term of years. If you want to recruit some of the best minds in the field for your cases, you will want to check out Tell the Client’s Story: Mitigation in Criminal and Death Penalty Cases (February 2017).
Too often criminal defense lawyers and public defenders are stuck on what seems probable. This is a book about achieving what is possible for our clients though effectively advocating for more proportionate sentences. Bryan Stevenson observed, “This new book is an essential guide to help 21st Century criminal defense lawyers learn a skill that is just as important as mastering the rules of evidence, effective cross-examination or persuasive summation.”
About the authors:
James J. Clark, LCSW, PhD graduated from Siena College (BA, 1980), the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (MSW, 1983), and the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration (PhD, 1995). He is currently the dean of the Florida State University College of Social Work. He is co-editor of the ABA’s Tell the Client's Story: Mitigation in Criminal and Death Penalty Cases (May 2017). From 2012 to 2015, he served as the director of the School of Social Work at the University of Cincinnati and was on the faculty of the University of Kentucky from 1991 to 2012, including service as the director of the PhD program and as associate dean for research. With colleagues from social work and psychiatry, he cofounded the UK Center on Trauma and Children. He has published in the areas of forensic mental health, child traumatic stress, criminal justice, ethics and accountability, and psychobiography and the study of lives. Dr. Clark has collaborated in interdisciplinary work with public defenders and capital litigators since 1987 and has testified during the mitigation phase of felony and capital trials in Kentucky, Indiana, and Missouri. He continues to consult and testify as a mental health professional in civil and criminal cases across the nation.
Ed Monahan grew up in Ludlow KY, is a graduate of Thomas More College (1973) and Catholic University of America law school (1976). He began as a KY public defender in 1976 and was appointed KY Public Advocate September 1, 2008. He administers KY’s statewide public defender program that represents over 158,000 persons a year. Monahan is co-editor with Jim Clark, Dean & Professor of the College of Social Work of Florida State University, of Tell the Client's Story: Mitigation in Criminal and Death Penalty Cases (2017), a pragmatic and scholarly ABA practice text for litigators and mental health professionals.