Death penalty trials consist of two phases: a trial phase during which the jury rules on whether the defendant is or is not guilty, and the penalty phase during which the jury determines whether the defendant should be sentenced to death or life without parole. In this second proceeding, evidence regarding the defendant’s background – including mental health, medical history, and family background – is critical to the jury’s determination. Yet, with hundreds of capital murder cases pending at any time, Texas experiences a constant shortage of qualified mitigation specialists to investigate these grounds for mercy.
In 2017, TDS launched its mitigation project to work with trial teams across the state and to assist in select appellate cases. In the short time since its inception, the unit has grown from one staff mitigation specialist to an army of seven, including the director. The mitigation team works tirelessly on behalf of those facing death sentences and those sentenced to death.
We are dedicated to telling the unique and compelling stories of those facing the death penalty. This narrative helps decision-makers understand our clients through a different lens, one that takes the entirety of the person into account.
It is our steadfast belief that the combination of individual casework and a commitment to furthering the field of mitigation through training and consultation will result in a more fair and just criminal justice system for those facing Texas’ harshest punishment.