mitigating circumstances

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Related to mitigating circumstances: Extenuating circumstances

Mitigating Circumstances

Circumstances that may be considered by a court in determining culpability of a defendant or the extent of damages to be awarded to a plaintiff. Mitigating circumstances do not justify or excuse an offense but may reduce the severity of a charge. Similarly, a recognition of mitigating circumstances to reduce a damage award does not imply that the damages were not suffered but that they have been partially ameliorated.

In criminal cases where the death penalty may be imposed, the Supreme Court has held that, under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, juries must be instructed that they may consider mitigating circumstances such as the defendant's youth, mental capacity, or childhood abuse so that they may reach a reasoned and moral sentencing decision. (See Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302, 109 S. Ct. 2934, 106 L. Ed. 2d 256 [1989].) Mitigating circumstances may be used to reduce a charge against a defendant. In People v. Morrin, 31 Mich. App. 301, 187 N.W.2d 434 (1971), the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed and remanded Morrin's conviction on first-degree murder charges because he committed the murder in the heat of passion caused by adequate legal provocation. The court found that because of these mitigating circumstances, the evidence was insufficient to support a first-degree murder conviction, which requires malice aforethought.

In civil actions mitigating circumstances may be considered to reduce damage awards or the extent of the defendant's liability. In Cerretti v. Flint Hills Rural Electric Cooperative Ass'n, 251 Kan. 347, 837 P.2d 330 (1992), the Supreme Court of Kansas held that a court, in reviewing a damage award, may consider any mitigating circumstances that affected the intent of the defendant, the financial worth of the defendant, or the plaintiff's expenses.

Many states allow defendants in Defamation actions to prove mitigating circumstances by showing that they acted in Good Faith, with honesty of purpose, and without malice in speaking or publishing the defamatory words. If the court is convinced that legitimate mitigating circumstances existed, it may reduce the amount of damages the defendant is required to pay. In Roemer v. Retail Credit Co., 44 Cal. App. 3d 926, 119 Cal. Rptr. 82 (1975), the defendant claimed that the plaintiff defaced the wall of his office, thereby mitigating the defendant's liability for defamatory statements. However, the court did not allow the defendant to introduce this evidence because he could not prove that the plaintiff was responsible for the defacement.


Capital Punishment; Criminal Law.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

mitigating circumstances

n. in criminal law, conditions or happenings which do not excuse or justify criminal conduct, but are considered out of mercy or fairness in deciding the degree of the offense the prosecutor charges or influence reduction of the penalty upon conviction. Example: a young man shoots his father after years of being beaten, belittled, sworn at, and treated without love. "Heat of passion," or "diminished capacity" are forms of such mitigating circumstances. (See: heat of passion, diminished capacity, "twinky" defense)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

mitigating circumstances

Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
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'The mitigating circumstances referred to by the Appeals Court in no way constitute especially mitigating circumstances, and the cruelty which Ranka Tomic showed during the commission of the crime deserves much more severe punishment,' it said.
We would urge them to do so if they believe they have mitigating circumstances. "
"Be that as it may, the presence of mitigating circumstances should be appreciated in favor of Espina, meriting the reduction of the penalty to be imposed on him.
But the court added Kim also had mitigating circumstances. "Other than that involving GKL, he admitted to other charges and showed remorse.
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You are instructed that this evidence is presented in order for you to determine, as you will be instructed, (1) whether each aggravating factor is proven beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) whether one or more aggravating factors exist beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) whether the aggravating factors found to exist beyond a reasonable doubt are sufficient to justify the imposition of the death penalty; (4) whether mitigating circumstances are proven by the greater weight of the evidence; (5) whether the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating circumstances; and (6) whether the defendant should be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or death.
But solicitor Sonia Kidd said there were mitigating circumstances. "He might be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following an incident last year.
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"They look so disrespectful," he said before adding that there are "mitigating circumstances".
Mitigating circumstances for the sentence were that the owner admitted his guilt in dousing malnourished animals with petrol and setting them alight.