Former Federal Defender Judy Clarke to Represent Jared Loughner

Jared Loughner just caught the biggest break of his life. CNN reports the federal court says former Spokane federal defender (also National Capital Resource Counsel and Federal Community Defender in San Diego), Judy Clarke has been appointed to represent him. (Judy is now in private practice in San Diego.)Via CNN:

Veteran federal public defender Judy Clarke, who has experience in several high-profile cases including those of "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski and convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, was appointed to defend suspect Jared Lee Loughner, a federal judicial source said.

They don't make defense lawyers any better than Judy. You may remember her from the Susan Smith case in South Carolina, where Smith was charged with drowning her two sons; or the Unabomber case, or the case of Eric Rudolf. Thanks to Judy (and those who helped her), all avoided the death penalty. She also worked on the Zacarias Moussaoui defense team for a while. The AP called her "a one woman dream team."

Judy is a past-President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), where she's affectionately called "Saint Judy" -- and a friend. She is both a great person and a great lawyer. [More...]

From Judy's closing in the guilt phase of Susan Smith:

This is not a case about evil, this is a case about sadness," Clarke said. "She made a horrible, horrible decision to be at that lake that night. She made that decision with a confused mind and a heart that had no hope. But confusion is not evil and hopelessness is not malice."

In the penalty phase of the trial to decide life or death:

Smith's lawyers countered in their opening statement that Smith knows she has "sinned" and "accepts responsibility" for killing her sons.

But defense attorney Judy Clarke also implored the jury to understand that Smith suffered from "mental illness" and had "snapped" on the night of the drownings after a lifetime of emotional trauma. The boys' deaths, Clarke told the jurors, was the result of Smith's own botched suicide attempt.

"Suicide is why we're here. In her own suicidal confusion, she believed the children would go with her, but the body wills to live and Susan jumped out of the car," Clarke said. "Once the car began rolling, those children were lost and Susan's life was lost."


Her voice steady, Clarke rejected [prosecutor] Giese's argument in her 14-minute reply, saying that the boys were the "sunshine" of Smith's life. "Use your common sense, it was not a boyfriend" that propelled the drownings, Clarke told the jury. "Use your common sense, it was not to get rid of an obstacle."

Instead, Clarke urged the jury to see Smith as driven by a "failing life," by emotional problems that stemmed from a father who committed suicide when she was 6 and a stepfather who molested her when she was 16.

"When we talk about Susan's life, we're not trying to gain your sympathy," Clarke said. "We're trying to gain your understanding. Susan Smith tried to cope with a failing life and she sank."

The jury returned a verdict of life in prison.

This is not to say that Loeffner will go to trial. Judy negotiated plea bargains for both Unabomber Ted Kaczinski and Eric Rudolph that avoided the death penalty. Both are serving their life sentences at Supermax.

No matter how horrific the crime, every defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to effective assistance of counsel and other constitutional rights. Only by providing these rights to those considered the worst among us, can we be sure they will be there for us or our loved ones should we need them.

Update: An AP news story erroneously reported Judy was a member of Timothy McVeigh's defense team. Dozens of other news organizations, including Time Magazine, have picked it up and run with it. She was not. She certainly would have been a tremendous asset to the defense, and I remember seeking her input on some aspects of the case, but she did not represent McVeigh. She was President of NACDL from 1996 - 1997, so perhaps the reporter saw her name on an amicus brief filed by NACDL or a public statement she made on the case on its behalf, but still, sloppy reporting.

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  • Display: Sort:
    The likely defense (2.00 / 2) (#3)
    by diogenes on Sun Jan 09, 2011 at 08:27:53 PM EST
    The defendant will plead not guilty by reason of insanity with a presumed diagnosis of schizophrenia and delusions.  He will succeed and will be treated for the first time with medication.  He will do well and in three to six months after conviction will be released because those convicted on NGRI cannot be held in hospitals if they do not acutely represent a danger to themselves or others.
    This said, aren't there many wrongfully accused victims of eyewitness misidentifications or of  police frame-ups who this fine lawyer could work her magic for instead?  

    utterly baseless (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by Peter G on Sun Jan 09, 2011 at 08:30:49 PM EST
    Total myth that insane murderers are set free after a short course of treatment.  Ever heard of John Hinckley?

    can you please think (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jan 09, 2011 at 08:32:32 PM EST
    before you write? He was tackled to the ground while holding the gun. It's not a case of identification or a who done it.

    It's whether he's sane, whether he is competent to stand trial (a different issue, he must be able to comprehend the proceedings and assist his counsel in his defense), whether he gets a fair trial by impartial jurors and what the punishment should be.

    No one is going to argue it wasn't him or was a police frameup. And no one is justifying his actions.


    Your crystal ball ... (none / 0) (#10)
    by Yman on Sun Jan 09, 2011 at 08:46:58 PM EST
    ... needs a tune-up.

    see also comments posted (none / 0) (#1)
    by Peter G on Sun Jan 09, 2011 at 07:25:02 PM EST
    on the previous thread, at 7-9-11.

    What if no death penalty? (none / 0) (#2)
    by diogenes on Sun Jan 09, 2011 at 08:20:15 PM EST
    I guess you agree that having the death penalty saved millions of dollars in trial circuses in these two cases:
    "This is not to say that Loeffner will go to trial. Judy negotiated plea bargains for both Unabomber Ted Kaczinski and Eric Rudolph that avoided the death penalty. Both are serving their life sentences at Supermax."

    No, you guess totally wrong (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Peter G on Sun Jan 09, 2011 at 08:28:12 PM EST
    Having capital punishment as a significant risk forced the terms of the negotiations, leading to the almost-equally-cruel outcome of life in a supermax prison. Had there been no death penalty in place, these defendants' mental issues could have been considered in reaching an appropriate disposition that would both protect others from their violent impulses and also satisfy the standards of a civilized society.

    he killed couple of people ... (none / 0) (#12)
    by nyrias on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 10:46:18 AM EST
    including a 9 year old girl.

    A cruel life in prison is what he deserves. And yeah, a death sentence is probably less cruel but of course TL people have no stomach to even consider that.


    Perhaps you need to consider the opposite? (none / 0) (#14)
    by nycstray on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 12:02:10 PM EST
    TL people DO have the stomach to consider the DP. Why else would they have an opinion on it if they hadn't had the stomach to consider (and reject) it?

    TalkLeft opposes the death penalty (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jan 09, 2011 at 08:28:23 PM EST
    in all cases.

    This is why reading this blog (none / 0) (#9)
    by Towanda on Sun Jan 09, 2011 at 08:42:33 PM EST
    is so fascinating.  What a resume Ms. Clarke has -- and yet, not the Unabomber nor the others nor all of them combined went after a member of Congress and killed a Congressional aide and killed a federal judge . . . and killed a nine-year-old girl and three other innocents, and who knows what next if all of the injured do not come through?

    This defendant is going to need the best.  And we have got one of the best seats to see this unfold, on this blog.  This is one for the history books, when all of the above may be but footnotes.

    You do understand, I imagine (none / 0) (#15)
    by Towanda on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 02:14:34 PM EST
    that there is a further step in the process after determination of guilt or innocence.

    It is called sentencing.

    Perhaps you have sentenced him to death already.

    I have not done so.

    And this does not even get into the discussion of the process being weakened by every case in which those presumed innocent, at the start of the process, did not receive a vigorous defense.  Nor the discussion of what we all may be able to learn from a trial that will delve into as much evidence as possible.  Nor . . . oh, forget it.  Suit yourself; sentence him to death now, weaken the process for the day that you might need it; don't learn what may be learned, etc.

    ny arias comments are being removed (none / 0) (#20)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 04:02:13 PM EST
    on this topic and s/he is in time out.

    Next step down that slippery slope... (none / 0) (#16)
    by canuck eh on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 02:39:18 PM EST
    why bother having a trial at all?

    nyarias is in time out (none / 0) (#19)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 04:01:06 PM EST
    please take your comments to another blog.