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Criminal Defense Mitigation

I assist criminal defense teams and their clients by producing compelling multi-media mitigation geonarrative exhibits as a social geographer.

I have worked on federal, state, military, capital, non-capital, and Miller cases.

To access example social geography materials please click here and enter the password you were given.

Locating your client's life story

Geography itself is a multi-faceted discipline that, in short-form, studies the “why of where.”  The two main branches are human geography which studies the lived experiences of humans including politics, culture, economics, and social life and physical geography which studies the planet. 


Social geography is a sub-field of human geography and focuses on understanding the ways people (as individuals and/or communities) experience identity, difference, and inequality, and the meanings they give to these experiences.


What is key to a social geography approach is the recognition that life experiences happen in places and, therefore, to fully understand an individual it is  necessary to situate them in relation to the larger forces shaping their geographic locations.

Social geography is an important component of any competent investigation of the life of those who are charged with capital murder. Through my work with Dr. Urbanik, I have had the opportunity to understand my client's life experience through a very important lens. 

- Cyndy Short, CLS Mitigation

Thanks to Julie Urbanik and her work, we were able to have a reasonable bail set for our client who faces very serious homicide charges and are using Body mapping on two more cases.  Body mapping is now a tool in our video mitigation tool belt to take our advocacy to a new level.  We were able to change minds using this innovative technique even with the most traditional attorneys and judges.   

-Nicole Mull, Video Mitigation Unit, NY Legal Aid

      Benefits and Value 


  • Provides new ways to share your client's story

  • Contributes to preparing the client and/or key parties for testifying

  • Life context narratives demonstrate client's ability for self-reflection

  • Place-based narratives can help make the client more "relatable"

  • Educates the judge/jury about the larger social forces that shaped the client's life choices

Work Products

  • Social geography overview of client's life context from the ages of 0-18 in relation to DOJ risk/protective factors.

  • Body maps and body map videos with client.  Body maps are a method for telling autobiographies using hand-drawn symbols. 

  • Place-based memory-walk videos

  • Societal context reports/media on specific topics

  • Social geography research summaries

  • Social geography expert testimony

Workshops/Training - I am available for body mapping workshops/trainings.                                                                        Please contact me for details.

2022     Body Mapping for Mitigation Training - Invited Workshop Leader.  New York Legal Aid Society,

                        Sept. 19th-22nd.


2023   Body Mapping: A Method for Contextualizing Racial Issues in Mitigation.  National Association of Criminal Defense

            Lawyers (NACDL) Race Matters Seminar, Cincinnati, Ohio, May 10-12.

2021   How Social Geography Can Help Tell Your Client's Story.  Arkansas Public Defenders Conference, May.

2020  Social Geography and Mitigation Videos. Mitigation University Workshop Training Series, August.

2017    How Social Geography Can Help Tell Your Client’s Story.  NAPD Training Webinar.

2017    Social Geography for Mitigation.  Federal Public Defender Training, Kansas City, Missouri.


2021     Applied geonarratives: Arts-based social geography in criminal defense mitigation.  Social Sciences &

             Humanities Open 4 (1): 1-10.  Click here for access to full article.

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