Harsh, inflexible sentences may have political appeal, but they do not deter crime or make communities safer. At great cost to taxpayers, mandatory minimum sentencing laws force judges to hand down unnecessarily long prison terms, without regard for the specific offense or offender. Such sentencing laws disproportionately affect minorities and have contributed greatly to the explosive increase in the U.S. prison population during the past three decades.
With growing bipartisan consensus that sentencing laws have gone too far, NACDL supports measures to repeal these policies.
Resources on sentencing and possible reform:
Excessive Sentencing: NACDL's Proportionality Litigation Project
NACDL is pleased to offer, as a resource for its members and as a service to the public, a collection of resources that summarize for each U.S. state the key doctrines and leading court rulings setting forth constitutional and statutory limits on lengthy imprisonment terms and other extreme (non-capital) sentences.
Cross-Examination Trial Pack
NACDL’s new Cross-Examination Trial Pack includes three of our best-selling Cross-Examination resources: “Damage Control: Situational Cross-Examination Techniques Trial Guide”, "Ultimate Cross 2.0: Audio Recordings & Written Materials" and "Sample Cross-Examination Questions."
This masterful collection of cross-examination resources provide countless tips, techniques and strategies for a variety of criminal case-specific scenarios. Learn to cross-examine a variety of trial witnesses!
Death Investigation: Forensic Pathology in the Courtroom and Cause & Manner of Death (2022)
This unique program provides criminal defense lawyers with an accurate and clear overview of forensic pathology and the countless factors to consider in a death investigation and will methodically explain what happens during an autopsy to determine cause and manner of death.
You'll uncover the different types of medicolegal death investigations, what to request from your MDI expert, quality benchmarks for accreditation and certification, guidelines and standards, common terminology and frequently asked questions.
The Psychology of Persuasion & Storytelling for Criminal Defense Lawyers
This Trial Resource Guide is a masterful collection of practical tips, techniques and strategies focused solely on using the arts and sciences of persuasion to improve your storytelling skills at trial.
You'll learn how to master the ability to communicate with juries, deliver powerful openings and closings, perform convincing cross-examinations, use effective courtroom choreography and non-verbal communication, identify and develop the optimal theme and theory for your case, and offer compelling arguments during mitigation and sentencing.
Zealous Advocacy in Sexual Assault & Child Victims Cases (2022)
Defending charges of sexual assault and child abuse can be daunting — but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.
Every year, NACDL identifies the hottest topics and most pressing issues when defending these cases, and brings-in nationally-renowned lawyers and experts to help you prepare for battle. This year’s 13th Annual Defending Sex Cases training program is our best yet; packed with topics and speakers you won’t want to miss!
Return to Freedom: Juan Carlos Barragan
Juan Carlos Barragan had served 16 years of his sentence when a federal judge reduced his sentence to “time served.” His release is one of the success stories of NACDL’s Return to Freedom Project, which files compassionate release motions and clemency petitions on behalf of federal prisoners convicted of marijuana crimes.
Practice Points: Who Says Defense Counsel Can’t Cite the Justice Manual Against the Government?
Many lawyers believe that they cannot cite helpful provisions of the Justice Manual in support of their argument and against the government. It is true that courts invariably hold that Department of Justice guidelines and policies do not create enforceable rights, but nothing prevents lawyers from arguing that relevant provisions of the Justice Manual are persuasive authority.
Storytelling and Allocution: How to Be Persuasive at Sentencing
Defense attorney Andrew Mishlove offers five rules – one for defense counsel and four for the client – that serve as a guide to effective sentencing presentations. He writes that a persuasive sentencing presentation encompasses the client’s complete existence, which means it must address the aggravating factors and expose the mitigating factors in the context of an entire human life. How can defense counsel tell a story that puts the crime in context?
News of Interest
- "New prison reform bills show ‘people are greater than their biggest mistake’,"
- "U.S. panel votes to expand compassionate release for prisoners,"
- "As the Clock Ticks on Acquitted Conduct Sentencing, Is Relevant Conduct Sentencing Next?,"