GRACE - Mitigation Skills Bootcamp And Strategic Motions Lab

Monday, May 21, through Thursday, May 24, 2018 - Houston, Texas

GRACE will hold our our next Mitigation Skills Bootcamp and Strategic Motions Lab from Monday, May 21, through Thursday, May 24, 2018, in Houston, Texas.

We had a backlog of individual requests so that we did not plan to advertise this session, but there are about 3-4 open slots remaining, which we now open up to anyone able to make it on such short notice.

Both the bootcamp and the motions lab are open to capital defense team members including attorneys, mitigation specialists, fact investigators and paralegals. These are in-house trainings on GRACE's methods and protocols which we have, for the last 10 years or so, opened up to the rest of the capital defense community.

Because we hold bootcamp as needed to serve our own incoming staff, they are scheduled without the advanced warning of a typical CLE, but as many people have, nonetheless, been able to attend and report benefitting from the experience, we continue to announce them as they come up, even with short notice. If you are interested but miss this one, there will likely be another in 4 to 6 months.

The Bootcamp is an intensive, interactive workshop to develop or hone the practical skills needed for working within a multi-disciplinary team to identify, develop, and present social history evidence in a capital defense context. It is required of everyone who joins GRACE as attorneys, mitigation specialists, paralegals, fellows, interns or volunteers; therefore, it is designed for people with a wide range of experience, and it addresses the roles of all core defense team members.

The format is a mix of lecture, group discussion, and practice; e.g., role-playing interviews, written exercises, and small group brainstorming. Over the three days, we work through the process of conducting a multi-disciplinary, multi-generational, culturally-competent, bio-psycho-social history investigation; then organizing the results into a cohesive narrative and using it to help decision-makers (including the client) choose life. We learn and practice GRACE's methods and protocols for each step along the way, but everything taught is easily transferrable to other organizations and not so GRACE-specific as to waste any time of defenders from outside the office.

Topics include: client relationships; team communication; scorched-earth record collection; identifying and locating life history witnesses; interview skills; memorializing witness and client visits; processing primary documents and generating secondary documents; plea strategies; identifying and working with experts; and themes and theories for life.

Participants will role-play visits with clients, life history witnesses, and potentially hostile witnesses, (e.g., estranged family/friends and/or jurors for PCR); write mock visit memos and investigation plans; and use online sources to identify and locate people and records.

We call it "bootcamp" because it is an immersive experience, 8-7 each day with working discussions during meals and take-home exercises in the evenings. Please come prepared to ignore your email and phone for a few days!

In recent years, we have invited outside faculty to increase the capacity of the bootcamp and enrich the experience of our own staff. This session, we look forward to having Odalys Rojas, Kate Black and others bring their skill and experience to the bootcamp faculty!

The Motions Lab sets out the pre-trial and trial litigation strategy utilized by GRACE and other trial offices to present a cohesive narrative through "chapters" of inter-connected motions designed go beyond merely raising and preserving a comprehensive list of issues to re-position relationships in the courtroom, change the picture of the case, establish constitutional ground rules, advocate for an agreed resolution and get the time, resources, discovery, process, protections and safeguards to which every capital defendant is entitled. The lab will address the development and implementation of a cohesive pretrial case strategy; the work of the entire team in preparing and presenting litigation for time and money; effective use of pretrial evidentiary hearings; current constitutional challenges; and creative motions regarding a range of issues from junk science to jury selection procedures.

We may use real cases for some exercises in the bootcamp and provide sample litigation memos in the motions lab, thus all participants are required to sign confidentiality agreements. The boot camp is open only to members of the capital defense community who currently work exclusively as defenders.


The Motions Lab is from 11 am to 7 pm on Monday, May 21st.

The Mitigation Bootcamp will start at 8 am on Tuesday, May 22nd and finish at 7 pm on Thursday, May 24th.

The auditorium at the MECA Community Center located at 1900 Kane Street, Houston, TX 77007.

To save time and promote the development of connections among participants, breakfast and lunch are served during working/networking sessions each day as well as snacks during breaks. Please respond with any dietary restrictions.

Contact me directly if you have questions about local options. We ask those who get lodging provided by their offices to consider sharing a double room with those participants who must fund their trips from their own pockets.

GRACE is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization on a shoestring budget. While we are glad to serve the capital defense community by providing this training, we respectfully ask organizations or individuals to contribute at least $75 per attendee to help offset the expense of facility rental, meals, snacks, beverages, and travel for out of town faculty. Checks are payable to Gulf Region Advocacy Center. Please email Trang Tran at to arrange payment by other means.

To enroll, please email Danalynn Recer at with your COMPLETE contact info, including job title and/or team role(s). Please let me know if you will attend the motions lab as well as the bootcamp.

Danalynn Recer
Gulf Region Advocacy Center
2307 Union St.
Houston, Tx 77007
Office: (713)869-4722
Fax: (713)880-3811
Mobile: (832)969-0444

GRACE is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization devoted to providing and supporting high quality capital representation to indigent defendants in the most lethal jurisdictions in America. We depend upon the support of a wide community of small individual donors whom we call our Steadfast Friends.

Please take a look at our website,, our videos in the Giving Library,, and expert reviews of our work on Philanthropaedia,, where we were ranked the 9th most effective local criminal justice charity in the US in 2011. And, please sign up to become a Steadfast Friend of GRACE.

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