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Guideline 10.4 The Defense Team


C. As soon as possible after designation, lead counsel should assemble a defense team.


 2. Subject to standards of the Responsible Agency that are in accord with these Guidelines and in consultation with associate counsel to the extent practicable, selecting and making any appropriate contractual agreements with non-attorney team members in such a way that the team includes:

  • at least one mitigation specialist and one fact investigator;

  • at least one member qualified by training and experience to screen individuals for the presence of mental or psychological disorders or impairments; and

  • any other members needed to provide high quality legal representation.



Mitigation specialists speak for the dignity and value of those who have committed even the worst criminal acts. When a criminal defendant faces a death sentence, a mitigation specialist will tell his story to the jury in order to advocate for his life. Mitigation specialists also provide expert insight into criminal culpability, helping courts to understand a defendant’s mental health or developmental disorders.


A mitigation specialist is an indispensable member of the defense team throughout all capital proceedings. Mitigation specialists possess clinical and information-gathering skills and training that most lawyers simply do not have. They have the time and ability to elicit sensitive, embarrassing and often humiliating evidence (e.g., family sexual abuse) that the defendant may never have disclosed. They have the clinical skills to recognize such things as congenital, mental or neurological conditions, to understand how these conditions may have affected the defendant’s development and behavior, and to identify the most appropriate experts to examine the defendant or testify on his behalf. Moreover, they may be critical to assuring that the client obtains therapeutic services that render him cognitively and emotionally competent to make sound decisions concerning his case.

Prison Break Investigations has a Due Process Contract authorizing due process payments through the JAC (Florida Justice Administrative Commission).

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