Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan

Mitigating Factors

  • Robert L. HeilbronnerEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57111-9_1011


A mitigating factor, in law, is any information or evidence presented to the court regarding the defendant or the circumstances of the crime that might result in reduced charges or a lesser sentence. In the USA, the issue of mitigating factors is most important in death penalty cases. In a series of decisions since 1972, the US Supreme Court has attempted to make the sentence of death in the USA less arbitrary by emphasizing that the judge or jury must be given the opportunity to consider all mitigating evidence before determining the sentence. Thus, the Court stressed that because of the constitutional requirement of the fundamental respect for human dignity set out by the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, information must be provided on the character and previous history of the defendant, as well as the circumstances surrounding the particular offense. The Supreme Court, in Penry v. Lynaugh(1989), remanded cases in which the jury instructions in death penalty...

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References and Readings

  1. Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 204 (2002).Google Scholar
  2. Cunningham, M. D., & Goldstein, A. M. (2003). Sentencing determinations in death penalty cases. In A. Goldstein (Ed.), Handbook of psychology (Vol. 11). Forensic psychology. Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  3. Eddings v. Oklahoma 436 U.S., 921 (1978).Google Scholar
  4. Heilbronner, R. L., & Waller, D. (2008). Neuropsychological consultation in the sentencing phase of capital cases. In R. Denney & J. Sullivan (Eds.), Clinical neuropsychology in the criminal forensic setting. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
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  6. Skipper v. South Carolina, 512 U.S., 154 (1994).Google Scholar
  7. Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S., 510 (2003).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chicago Neuropsychology GroupChicagoUSA