What is extenuation and mitigation evidence and does it really help?
At the sentencing phase of a court-martial, the panel or military judge has already determined that they believe the servicemember to be guilty of a crime. However, prior to being sentenced the servicemember has the opportunity to present matters in extenuation and mitigation. Extenuating evidence is evidence regarding the circumstances of the crime for which the servicemember has been found guilty that tends to lessen the gravity of the crime committed. For example, a servicemember could present evidence showing that while he committed the crime of AWOL, he left the service without permission to go visit his dying father. Mitigation evidence on the other hand is evidence presented about the servicemember which might convince the panel and/or military judge to give the servicemember a lesser sentence. For example, a servicemember might present evidence about his upbringing, his military service, or his physical and mental health. This evidence is extremely important. Without this evidence, the panel or military judge would simply be deciding a sentence based on what they know about the crime that occurred and not based on the “full story.” Sometimes in large complex cases, for example, a capital case, mitigation experts are hired to assist with the presentation of this evidence. Recently, on 9 August 2013, the Air Force Court
of Criminal Appeals (AFCCA) in U.S. v. Witt set aside Senior Airman Witt’s death sentence because there was undiscovered mitigation evidence that was not presented at his court-martial. Senior Airman Witt will be given a new sentencing hearing simply because of this mitigation evidence. If you are facing a court martial or other adverse military action, you need someone with experience by your side who knows what evidence to present on your behalf. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.