When Jared Loughner, the Tucson gunman, goes to court, he'll be represented by the public defender Judy Clarke. You may not have heard of Clarke, but you've probably heard of her clients: Zacarias Moussaoui, the Sept. 11 conspirator; Susan Smith, the woman who drowned her two young sons in 1994; Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber.
Clarke is famous in the legal community for her command of criminal law, her experience with high-profile cases, and her ability to get prison sentences for her clients in situations where the death penalty seems all but inevitable. Here are a few notable excerpts from the profiles that have been published in recent days:
Clarke Is a Legend in Her Field The New York Times quotes Norman Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who says of Clarke, "She is known for being the criminal defense lawyers' criminal defense lawyer." The Times piece goes on to say that Clarke has "an encyclopedic knowledge of criminal law," and notes that "lawyers who have worked with her say she is a master strategist in death-penalty cases."
And She's Probably Loughner's Best Chance Andrew Cohen at Politics Daily rounds up some accolades from fellow lawyers. One calls Clarke "one of those extraordinary attorneys who have it all," while another compares Clarke to Sherlock Holmes, "who can locate a seemingly innocuous bit of evidence and instantly knows its value to the case." Cohen adds that at a hearing this past Monday, "Loughner was deferential to his attorney. If he's smart, he'll stay that way."
She's Committed to Ending the Death Penalty Time quotes Clarke's friend, Jack King, who says that "Judy knows no one wants to be measured by the worst moment of their lives ... She can reach into people and find the human being inside, no matter how the rest of the world looks at them." King also says that Clarke does what she does "because it's a calling. She's trying to stop the death penalty one human being at a time."
We May Hear Echoes of the Kaczynski Case, writes Jon Michaud at The New Yorker. Michaud points readers to a New Yorker essay by William Finnegan about Kaczynski's trial, then notes that while "we do not know whether Loughner will have the same contentious relations with his defense team that Kaczynski did... some of the other issues Finnegan highlights appear likely to be relevant to the Tucson case. The discussions of Loughner's YouTube diatribes, in which he argues, among other things, that the government controls people by manipulating their grammar, are reminiscent of those over Kaczynski's manifesto, 'Industrial Society and Its Future.' And it seems probable that psychiatric evaluations will have an important place in Loughner's trial."
Clarke 'Has Her Work Cut Out For Her,' notes Gerald Shargel at The Daily Beast. "However well suited Clarke is for the task, the challenge she now faces is formidable ... This is no ordinary case." Shargel suggests that if Clarke pursues an insanity defense for Loughner, and successfully makes the case that Loughner is non compos mentis, "it may at least persuade [Attorney General Eric] Holder that the government should not pursue the death penalty." That, says Shargel, "would be a stunning victory for Clarke."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.