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Shooter Suspect’s SD Attorney Has History of Tough Cases

Audio

Aired 1/11/11

Jared Loughner is accused of committing some of the worst political crimes in recent memory -- the killing of a federal judge and the attempted assassination of a member of Congress. Now Loughner has one of the best defense lawyers in the country. Judy Clarke is a federal death penalty expert with a reputation for taking on daunting cases.

Jared Loughner is accused of committing some of the worst political crimes in recent memory -- the killing of a federal judge and the attempted assassination of a member of Congress. Now Loughner has one of the best defense lawyers in the country. Judy Clarke is a federal death penalty expert with a reputation for taking on daunting cases.

Defense Attorney Judy Clarke

Above: Defense Attorney Judy Clarke

A mugshot of Jared Lee Loughner after his arrest for a deadly shooting spree in Tucson in January 2011. He was 22 at the time.
Enlarge this image

Above: A mugshot of Jared Lee Loughner after his arrest for a deadly shooting spree in Tucson in January 2011. He was 22 at the time.

Those who know Judy Clarke say she’s never shied away from defending some of the most reviled people in recent history. She represented Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. Her other clients include Atlanta Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph, 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother who drowned her two sons in 1994.

“She’s a specialist in representing people charged with some of the most heinous crimes you can imagine and she does it with a great deal of compassion, objectivity and thoroughness.”

Gerald Blank is a criminal defense attorney in San Diego and a longtime friend of Clarke’s. He says she takes on difficult cases out of principle and conviction.

“I believe she takes the toughest of the tough cases because she believes in them. If you really want to see the system work and obtain justice for someone, that’s what’s really needed.”

Clarke once ran the federal defenders’ office in San Diego. Now, she’s in private practice. But she remains active with the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel. The group helps judges find lawyers in federal death penalty cases. Blank says she’s a natural fit for the Loughner case.

“She is deemed to be a nationwide specialist in the application of the federal death penalty. She really knows the law in that area and is a very effective advocate.”

Clarke’s clients in the Unabomber and Olympic bomber cases both pleaded guilty, avoiding trials and the death penalty. San Diego criminal defense lawyer Knut Johnson used to work for Clarke in the federal defenders office.

“She’s a tremendous attorney, one of the best if not the best.”

Johnson says that’s especially true in the Susan Smith case.

“Susan Smith did not get the death penalty. If you want to describe that as a win, that’s a win.”

Clarke argued that Smith was mentally ill when she murdered her sons.

California Western Law School Professor Mario Conte says Clarke’s unpretentious style plays well with jurors.

“There’s not a whole lot of flash and buzzers. She’s very down-home, extremely talented and I think jurors really relate to her because she’s real. There’s not put-on in the courtroom, no airs.”

Conte says Clarke has dedicated her life to her career and is hardworking to the point of being scary -- a trait that is unlikely to change in the months ahead. Her client, Tucson shooting suspect Jared Loughner is facing five federal counts. The charges include two counts of killing employees of the federal government and an attempted assassination of a member of Congress. As with her previous clients, Conte says Clarke will have to “keep avoid emotion and do what’s best for Loughner.

“The ultimate objective, the ultimate objective is to save his life.”

Conte says if anyone can do that, it’s Judy Clarke.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 11, 2011 at 10:11 a.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Nothing on how she came to get hired by him? The parents? Is she someone they can afford?

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Avatar for user 'Pat Finn'

Pat Finn, KPBS Staff | January 11, 2011 at 2:18 p.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Judy Clarke was appointed by the federal court to defend Jared Loughner.

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Avatar for user 'Carloseva'

Carloseva | January 11, 2011 at 9:10 p.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

And WE all pay for his (best in the country) defense! He is entitled to all his constitutional rights. Unfortunately in this Wild West society is becoming more and more difficult to find where are the rights of the innocent victims.

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