Saturday, June 19, 2010

Defense Initiated Victim's Outreach

A growing trend, especially in death penalty work, is the Defense Initiated Victim's Outreach or DIVO for short. DIVO has been around for quite a while, but the idea translates to more than just capital cases. In a capital case, it is essential for the defense team to understand the victims' concerns and questions. The information can be useful working on settlement as well as working out mitigation evidence. Traditionally, victims end up "belonging" to the prosecutor and the victim-advocate that is an employee of the prosecutor's office. The DIVO can turn that around by providing the defense team with access and information to the victim to provide a more holistic approach to justice. The DIVO creates an organic relationship between the victims/survivors and the defendant. The defense team is then in a position to deal compassionately with the victims and learn from the victims as well. NACDL has a good overview of DIVO, its creation in the McVeigh case with Richard Burr and Tammy Krause, and resources for a defense team regarding DIVO (available here).

The DIVO works with both the defense and the victim-survivors to bridge the parties and seeks to reduce the trauma to victim-survivors that often results from the adversarial and technical nature of the legal process. The DIVO assists the defense team to access the victim and provide a more active role for homicide victim-survivors without compromising the due process rights of capital defendants. Trained victim outreach specialists help defense attorneys understand the needs and experiences of victim-survivors; conversely, the DIVO can help the victim understand the defendant, the legal process and the crime better.

This idea has primarily been used in capital cases, but can be important in any case where the defense finds themselves wanting to understand and communicate with victims. For a good overview of DIVO, see Understanding "Defense-Initiated Victim Outreach and Why It Is Essential In Defending a Capital Client" authored by Mickell Branham and Richard Burr. For training on DIVO work, see Capital Defense Network and their associated trainings.

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