The team of public defenders now lined up to defend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at his criminal trial are veteran defenders of a veritable rogue's gallery of criminal A-listers. Facing off against U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, the prosecutor of Aaron Swartz, the Tsarnaev team should make these proceedings some one of the most spectacular on American soil in decades.
Despite assurance from Tsarnaev's mother that the family knew a "lawyer with a big oil company" who would find someone to represent her son, the court today determined that Dzhokhar would be publicly defended. A few members of his criminal team have been known since last week: William Fick (who represented him at his bedside hearing), Timothy Watkins, and Miriam Conrad. Fick and Watkins appear to have handled mostly local cases — Carmen "The Cheese Man" DeNunzio; a bodybuilding firefighter.
Conrad's track record is much more interesting. Among her clients:
Reid was arrested in December 2001 after attempting to light a fuse on a bomb hidden in the sole of his shoe. He plead guilty to eight counts related to terrorism, including attempted murder. In 2003, he was sentenced to a life term at the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.
In 2006, the U.S. Attorney's office tried to interview Reid without an attorney present. Conrad filed a motion to block their ability to do so.
Ferdaus was arrested in 2011 by the Boston office of the FBI, accused of plotting to use remote-controlled planes to fly explosives into the Capitol and Pentagon. He plead guilty and is serving a 17-year sentence at a prison in Illinois. After the Boston bombing, Mother Jones magazine questioned if the FBI's focus on Ferdaus distracted them from Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
This afternoon, the team added another attorney: Judy Clarke, a specialist in helping clients avoid the death penalty, has an even more impressive client list.
In January 2011, Loughner shot and killed six people in a parking lot in Tuscon, also severely wounding Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Last summer, he pled guilty to 19 counts related to the crime and was sentenced to life in prison.
Clarke took the case after many attorneys in Arizona recused themselves, due to a relationship with a judge who'd been killed by Loughner. She was present at Loughner's first hearing before a judge, during which he refused to enter any plea, simply smiling when asked how he wished to plead.
Moussaoui, the "20th 9/11 hijacker," was originally part of the plot to hijack airplanes on September 11th. After raising suspicions with the instructor at his flight school, the FBI was contacted. Moussaoui was arrested for violating immigration rules. After the terror attacks that year, Moussaoui was charged with — and plead guilty to — conspiring to commit an act of terror. For a period of time, Clarke was on his defense team.
Rudolph, the long-time fugitive responsible for a series of bombings across the South, is best known for planting a bomb in Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. After his arrest in 2003, Rudolph faced the death penalty. With Clarke as his representation, he eventually accepted a deal for four consecutive life sentences. He is serving those terms in the same prison where Richard Reid is being held.
Smith was at the center of a notorious case in South Carolina. A mother of two, Smith claimed that a black man stole her car and kidnapped her children, who were eventually found dead in a car in a nearby lake. Eventually, Smith confessed to having let the car roll into the lake herself, killing her children. Smith was found guilty and is now serving a life sentence.
After Clarke took the case, the state of South Carolina banned the hire of public defenders from outside the state.
Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, sent a series of mail bombs to university professors, executives, and business owners. From 1978 to 1995, Kaczynski sent over a dozen bombs as part of his effort to undermine the advancement of technology in the United States. After the FBI published his anti-technology manifesto, his brother turned him in to the FBI. Kaczynski agreed to a plea deal that spared him the death penalty; he, too, is housed in the Supermax prison in Florence Colorado.
Clark and Conrad face a tough opponent in their most recent high-profile case: U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz. Ortiz's aggressive prosecution of accused hacker Aaron Swartz prompted enormous outcry, including a petition to the White House that she be removed from office which was signed over 55,000 times.
All images from the AP.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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