The Woman Who Helped the Unabomber Avoid the Death Penalty Will Defend Jared Loughner

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Media-shy Judy Clarke in 1998.Photo: RICH PEDRONCELLI/AFP/Getty Images

Judy Clarke, a San Diego–based public defender, will represent Jared Lee Loughner, the 22-year-old charged with shooting Gabrielle Giffords and seventeen other people, killing six. Even Fidel Castro has voiced disdain for Loughner, whom authorities describe as "a troubled individual," but Clarke is no stranger to defending high-profile public enemies. Previously, she represented the Unabomber, Eric Robert Rudolph (the Atlanta Olympics bomber), and Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who drowned her children, helping them all avoid the death penalty. Gerald Goldstein, Clarke's lawyer friend, admitted that Clarke errs toward "the kinds of cases that bring the greatest disdain from the public." Camera-shy Clarke, noted for her "low-key style" and pageboy haircut, is said to have an aversion for the media. She is oft-described as "unassuming," but she has ultimately proved to be "a master strategist" in death-penalty cases. Married to law professor Thomas Speedy Rice, Clarke declined to comment to the New York Times on the Loughner case.

Certainly, someone has to do this job. But sources say Clarke's moral and political opposition to the death penalty make her tick, and she does not see her cases as black-and-white. David Bruck, another of Clarke's lawyer friends, said: "Judy would say if the public saw everything she sees, it would look at the client or the case differently." After helping Susan Smith, who drowned her toddlers in 1994, receive a life sentence rather than the death penalty, Clarke even returned to the state the $82,944 that the judge had approved for her work, saying it was needed for the defense of other indigent people facing charges.

According to the Times, Clarke signaled that she intends to push for the Loughner case to be moved out of Arizona, since one of the victims her client is accused of killing was Judge John Roll of the Federal District Court in Tucson. Clarke said she had "great concern" about any Arizona judges or prosecutors handling the case. She appeared in court with Loughner today for the first time, where Loughner agreed not to contest his continued imprisonment. Via the Times:

“Good luck to you, Mr. Loughner,” Judge Anderson said as the defendant, who could face the death penalty if convicted, received a pat on the back from Ms. Clarke.

Loughner’s Lawyer Is Called a Master Strategist [NYT]
Suspect in Ariz. Shooting Faces Charges in Federal Court [NYT]
Judy Clarke [Wikipedia]
Judy Clarke, Who Defended the 'Unabomber,' Will Represent Jared Lee Loughner [AOL]