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Sentencing Advocacy

Sometimes the most important part of a criminal case isn’t whether a person committed a crime– it’s what to do about it.  In other words, there are times when the question really isn’t guilt or innocence.  Instead, the question is “What is a just and balanced punishment for this offender, charged with this offense against this victim, in these particular circumstances?”.  In such cases, the defense attorney plays a crucial role for the defendant through sentencing advocacy.

Through sentencing advocacy, the defense attorney argues for a punishment that is based on all relevant factors, including the life history and particular circumstances of the defendant.  All too often, prosecutors and even judges are willing to impose sentences that are too harsh in light of the circumstances of the case or the defendant’s history. Sometimes this is a result of a rush to pigeon-hole cases, to conclude that this crime and this defendant are just like every other crime or defendant.  At other times, prosecutors and judges just aren’t informed about all aspects of the situation.

It is the defense attorney’s job to make sure every case is seen for what it is– a unique event– and that no one overlooks mitigating circumstances that should effect the punishment.  The classic example of mitigating circumstance is the man who steals bread to feed his family.  Although most cases are not that straightforward, behind nearly every crime,even the most terrible, there is a story that should be heard and weighed before a sentence is handed down.

As a defense attorney, Stephen works hard to find the story behind the crime and present it to the court in the most compelling form possible. Although adamantly not a “plea lawyer,” Mr. Haedicke is adept at negotiating with the State for early resolutions of cases in appropriate circumstances (and after adequate investigation of defenses). Where that is not possible, he is equally skilled at presenting the defendant’s strongest argument for a lighter punishment to the judge on the case. This can involve telling the defendant’s life story through family members, school and medical records, or a variety of experts testifying about the defendant’s background or current circumstances.

Although Mr. Haedicke developed sentencing advocacy skills through capital representation—where a jury may have to determine whether the defendant lives or dies—presenting the life story of an accused can be a key part of any criminal case.