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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