Judy Clarke: How to Save a Life

Vanity Fair has an excellent new profile of Judy Clarke. My favorite line, and it is not an exaggeration:

Her record defending the indefensible speaks for itself. Among those who want capital punishment abolished in this country, Judy Clarke is the most effective champion in history.

A basic premise:

No person should be defined “by the worst moment, or worst day” of his life.

How she does it: [More...]

She laboriously constructs a complex and sympathetic portrait of the accused, working with a far more varied palette, sketching out the good and the bad, unearthing the forces that drove a killer to the terrible moment, and insisting that judges and juries and prosecutors see the larger picture, weighing not just the crime but the whole person. She seeks not forgiveness but understanding. It takes only a small spark of it to decide against sentencing someone to death.

How she communicates that to jurors: From her closing in the Susan Smith case:

This is not a case about evil. . . . This is a case about despair and sadness.” ....“Her choices were irrational and her decisions were tragic. She made a horrible, horrible decision to be at that lake that night. She made that decision with a confused mind and a heart without hope. . . . [But] confusion is not evil, and hopelessness is not malice.”

Life saved. In a 2013 interview in the ABA Journal,the prosecutor in the Smith case, Tommy Pope, had this to say about Judy:

Tommy Pope, the lead prosecutor in the Smith case and now a South Carolina state legislator, argued passionately in favor of sentencing Smith to death. He says Clarke was able to touch something in jurors. “It started out as Susan the monster and evolved into Susan the victim,” he says. “One of the things she did was humanize the defendant. I anticipate she will do something similar in the Boston case.”

Pope also believes the public perception of Smith began shifting even before the trial. “I think over the course of time, they were able to change the public face of the defendant,” he says. “As her opponent, I respect her. With her, it’s not drama; it’s not theatrics. But there is an intensity.”

In the same article, Ted Kaczynski's brother says:

“She had a real sense of Ted’s humanity. To me that was extremely meaningful and validating,” David Kaczynski says. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, she understands my brother as a human being who has significant issues and challenges and mental problems, who’s done something terrible but is still on the level of a human being.’ ”

Two more quotes from the ABA article:

Clarke would probably not want anyone to feel indebted to her. In fact, after the Smith case, she returned the $82,944 fee the state paid her, saying that other indigent defendants could use it more.

....“She is completely genuine,” [defense attorney Laurie] Shanks says. “With Judy, whether she is wearing her little tie or brushing her hair out of her eyes, the reality is that she absolutely, 100 percent believes in her client and what she’s telling the jury — and the jury knows that. She’s respectful of the jury, she’s respectful of the court, she’s respectful of the victim of the crime. And the jury sees that, and that’s why she’s successful.”

Back to the Vanity Fair article: the biggest understatement:

If Clarke is compassionate and kind, she is also defiant and committed. This is no marshmallow.

It remains to be seen if Judy and the team can convince the Tsarnaev jury to spare Jahar's life, but if anyone can do it, she can. All it takes is one juror to vote for life.

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  • Display: Sort:
    life? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Mr Natural on Tue Mar 31, 2015 at 08:05:46 AM EST
    in the Florence ADX?

    Inmates spend their days in 12-by-7-foot cells with thick concrete walls and double sets of sliding metal doors (with solid exteriors, so prisoners can't see one another). A single window, about three feet high but only four inches wide, offers a notched glimpse of sky and little else. Prisoners sleep on concrete slabs topped with thin mattresses. Prisoners in the general population are allotted a maximum of 10 hours of exercise a week outside their cells, alternating between solo trips to an indoor "gym" (a windowless cell with a single chin-up bar) and group visits to the outdoor rec yard (where each prisoner nonetheless remains confined to an individual cage). All meals come through slots in the interior door, as does any face-to-face human interaction (with a guard or psychiatrist, chaplain or imam). The Amnesty report said that ADX prisoners "routinely go days with only a few words spoken to them."