The Heart & the Head: Holistic Sentencing With Mitigation Specialist Victoria Rusk

Set for Sentencing podcast promotion design (1 Guest)_SM

Mitigation Specialists can be a lawyer’s secret weapon. They help us dig for, develop, and deliver our powerful mitigation narratives.  But many lawyers remain unaware of the import and effect of a full mitigation workup, or may not have the resources to do so.

Therefore, helping us get set for sentencing is Victoria Rusk, founder of Heart of Justice, LLC, a mitigation firm devoted to what she refers to as a “whole person” approach to mitigation.  Ms. Rusk authored the Mitigation Handbook and created an online course to train advocates in her unique brand of holistic sentencing.


  • What is a mitigation specialist and why we need one;
  • The four most important things we look for to help make sense out of the terrible choices some of our clients make (spoiler alert – it’s all about the brain!);
  • Implementing a “holistic” approach to criminal defense;
  • The goal of finding a mitigation narrative with universal themes that resonate with any decision-maker;
  • Why LISTENING is one of the most important skills;
  • The healing power of being heard and sharing one’s story;
  • The fundamental difference between sympathy and empathy;
  • How and why Mitigation Specialists are bridge-builders;
  • Telling the story of power dynamics in your mitigation narrative;
  • Victoria’s take on the Elizabeth Holmes sentencing and where her mitigation narrative may have been lacking;
  • Practical advice for developing mitigation if you still do not have access to the resources to hire a mitigation specialist.


FREE RESOURCE: RECORD RELEASE FORMS:  One simple thing a lawyer can do is keep a release of records in every new file. That way, your client can sign releases at the outset and you and your team can get started on record collection which may be essential to your holistic mitigation narrative.  Even if you don’t recognize the need to find a particular record, you will be happy to have these signed releases when something comes up and you need to act fast. Click the orange button to get a copy of the releases I use!


MITIGATION VIDEO:  During our discussion of “power dynamics” in relation to sex offenses, I told the story of my case where our client was addicted to child pornography as the result of being sexually abused by another boy in his neighborhood.  We did a sentencing mitigation video to better tell his story.  If you’d like to see it, here is a link to the full video that our client graciously gave us permission to share:

Password: mitigation2016

FYI, Sentencing videos have been my passion for almost 20 years.  If you have a case or client that might benefit from having their mitigation story told in this way, feel free to head to and set up a free consult.


“Disrupting the Dehumanizing Sentencing Process” (Ep. 1)

The inaugural episode of Set for Sentencing features another amazing Mitigation specialist, Dr. Elizabeth Vartkessian, founder of Advancing Real Change, Inc.  It’s worth a listen if you haven’t already.


Digging Deep With Defense Maps”, (Ep. 10).  This episode features a free, online comprehensive mitigation questionnaire created by attorney Charlie Asher.  It’s a good listen, but more importantly, this is a GREAT resources for attorneys who, for whatever reason, do not yet have access to mitigation specialists.  Check it out!

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