Jared Loughner, the alleged gunman in Saturday's Arizona massacre, will likely face the death penalty. Now, Judy Clarke is prepared to fight for his life.
It's hard to imagine defending a man believed to have murdered six people, including a 9-year-old girl, and injuring 14 others. But as one of the country's leading public defenders, it's her job to represent those deemed by many as indefensible.
At 58, Clarke's client list includes Ted "Unabomber" Kaczynski, convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, and the Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph. An active member of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel, Clarke is called on to protect the rights of the infamous to a fair trial in the face of widespread public derision. She successfully protected notorious criminals like Susan Smith, convicted in1995 of killing her two sons, and Kaczynski from the death penalty, making her both widely respected and deeply controversial.
Despite her infamous clients, Clarke keeps a low profile and isn't driven by money. She famously returned her state salaries earned on Smith's case, requesting for the funds to be put towards indigent people needing free representation.
Clarke's personal life is equally low-key. Married to a law professor named Speedy Rice, they share a website, a private practice, a home in San Diego, and at one time, a dog named Abe Fortas after the lawyer who won the landmark Supreme Court case, Gideon v. Wainwright, that allowed for free legal representation.
Now that Clarke is representing Loughner, a man who in minutes tightened the screws of rancor in national politics, her views are bound to be questioned. But she's no stranger to defending them from labeling.
"I don't know but what my positions have been the most conservative in the world, quite frankly," she told the Los Angeles Times in a profile piece back in 1990.
"What does it take to be an absolute supporter of what the Constitution says? That's hardly liberal...I don't like the drug problem the country has. I don't know if you can call me a liberal. Yes, I'm a defense lawyer, but I think I have very conservative values."
Twenty years later, her values have taken her to Arizona where she's working on getting Loughner's trial moved out of state due to concerns that the murder of Justice John Roll, a friend and colleague of many Arizona judges, will interfere with his right to a fair trial.
"I like to fight," she told the L.A. Times at age 37. "And it's a hell of a fight as a defense lawyer....I like the adversarial nature of the business. I love all of that. I think that's the fun stuff. Especially when it's over an issue that I think is of significance to all of us, and that's our freedoms, our individual liberties."
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