avatar for Faith Sills, LCSW, CBHCMS

Faith Sills, LCSW, CBHCMS

Office of the Public Defender, 9th Judicial Circuit
Mitigation & Disposition Specialist Supervisor
Orlando, FL
I was the chief of social services for the 9th Circuit Public Defender about 14 years ago doing alternative sentencing and forensic competency work when a gentleman who lived in my neighborhood went on a shooting rampage- I was thrown into the world of mitigation that evening. Before that time, we had fact investigators but no clinicians who were able to diagnose and do the mitigation interviews so we relied heavily on very expensive doctors (on their timelines) to do the work. Shortly after the arrest, there was a death in the client's family and they told me they wanted desperately to go to Puerto Rico for the funeral but they couldn't afford a hotel room. I thought a funeral seemed like a good opportunity to meet everyone and gather stories so I told the family they could stay in my room that week ("just don't tell anyone"- ha!). We bonded as we drove around together through a tropical storm in a rented jalopy and attended dramatic funeral proceedings that uncovered a lot of good intel. The client was a sweet, compassionate man who was struck by late onset mental illness (a delusional disorder) and though he passed away recently, I remain in touch with his family to this day.... So, that was my introduction to death penalty mitigation. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be trained personally by Scharlette Holdman, Susan Cary and others. I only take a few clients at a time these days but I read and edit reports and advise for many others as the trainer and team leader. We've had ZERO clients sentenced to death row during my tenure, thanks to our amazing attorneys and support staff (and, more recently, thanks to more compassionate prosecutors who aren't filing as often as their predecessors). I remain thankful and blessed for the opportunity to be a part of this important, meaningful work. (-: