A widely recognized anti-death-penalty lawyer tapped to represent alleged Tucson, Ariz., shooter Jared Loughner has Inland Northwest ties.
Judy Clarke, formerly federal defender for Eastern Washington and Idaho, led child-killer Joseph Duncan’s defense team during his 2008 death penalty hearing in Boise, but first drew national attention for her defense of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, baby-killer Susan Smith and domestic terrorist Eric Robert Rudolph.
Clarke was present during Duncan’s death penalty trial in Boise, where he represented himself as his team of court-appointed lawyers stood by. They had earlier tried to leave Duncan’s case, saying their participation would violate their professional ethics.
“We are not gunslingers who do the bidding of someone who does not have a rational understanding,” Clarke told U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge.
Lodge declined Clarke’s request, and a jury sentenced Duncan to death in August 2008 for the kidnapping, sexual abuse and murder of 9-year-old Dylan Groene.
Clarke currently is a lawyer in San Diego, where she has also been a federal defender.
She was called on over the weekend to defend Loughner, who is accused of shooting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during a political event in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday. He’s also accused of killing six others, including U.S. District Judge John Roll.
Clarke worked in Eastern Washington and Idaho from 1992 to June 2002. Her husband, Speedy Rice, was a professor at Gonzaga Law School.
She was the second woman to preside over the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and has twice argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
She rose to fame in the 1990s with her successful defense of Smith, who confessed to drowning her sons by rolling her car into a Union, S.C., lake with the boys still strapped in their seats.
A jury spared Smith’s life and instead sentenced her to life in prison. Clarke won the same fate for Kaczynski and Rudolph.
In an in-depth profile in The Spokesman-Review in 1996, Clarke said family discussions at her home in western North Carolina, where her father was a labor consultant and her mother a housewife and speech and drama teacher, helped prepare her for a life of advocacy.
“We debated a lot in the family,” she said. “We were very vocal, and we always took positions.” The family motto, she said, was “Be what you can be and be the best that you can be, whatever it is you pick to be.”
She said she once named a dog in honor of former Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas.
“From about the sixth or seventh grade, I wanted to become either the chief justice of the Supreme Court or Perry Mason,” Clarke said. “One summer when I was young, my mother wanted to teach my sister and I crocheting and the Constitution. She says that for my sister, the crocheting stuck, and for me, the Constitution stuck.”
Clarke said the importance of her job was protecting her clients against the power of the government.
“When you get down to it, what is the biggest, the core value that anybody in the country has?” she asked. “Their liberty. … Once you get beyond the basics of existence, you want to be free. And I think it’s a serious thing to take somebody’s liberty away.”
She called the death penalty “crazy” and “irrational,” saying those who kill without conscience should be locked up for life.
“Look,” she said, “there probably are people who, for whatever reason, are unable to live within the rules we have as a civilized society. Does that mean we kill them?”