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...
References and Readings
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