“Most psychopaths know the words, but not the music” – Ronald Ressler, retired founder of FBI’s Behavioural Sciences Unit
They say, “She has a passion for sticking up for the little guy and there is nobody littler than a defendant accused of a horrendous crime, a guy everyone wants to lynch”.
And then she says, “I stand between the power of the state and the individual and in doing so, defend the core values that make this country great. “
“This is not a case about evil,” she once told a jury, “this is about despair and sadness. Susan snapped, she broke where many of us might bend.” She was referring to Susan Smith, a cold blooded child killer whom she was trying to paint as the victim. In October 1994, Smith had strapped her two toddler boys in her car and let it roll into the John D. Long lake in Union, South Carolina, drowning them both. The reason? She wanted to discard her children so she could resume an affair with a wealthy local man who had no interest in being burdened with kids.
The woman I’m writing about, she takes on high-profile cases involving the death penalty and the temporary insanity defense, for paranoid schizophrenics, psychopaths, terrorists and other really bad dudes who are completely unhinged. Her cases don’t involve proving that there could be grounds for doubts about the perp’s culpability. The defendants she represents are the kind whose guilt is already established beyond reasonable doubt.
She just appears out of the mist and takes over a trial, guiding and exploiting to the hilt the judicial process which she knows is open to being milked dry. Almost all the deviants who have benefited from her representation score high on name recognition and some are even known worldwide. Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), Zacarias Moussaoui (the 20th 9/11 hijacker), Jared Lee Loughner (the Tucson shooter) and Eric Rudolph (the Olympic Park bomber) are just a few of her illustrious clients.
For all the above gents, special jail blocks have had to be constructed, to protect them from the wrath of other prisoners, given how loathsome they are, even to fellow inmates who are themselves hardened criminals, whose transgressions can at least be understood at a certain basic level.
Her defendants are innately diabolic, folk who are not in the habit of showing fear or remorse. While other defenders have failed, she is able to gain their complete trust and they tell her things that they have never told anyone else before. They follow her instructions during the trial process unquestioningly, a fact that leaves observers baffled and amazed. She has the ability to transform the monsters sitting behind the bullet-proof glass into harmless, persecuted, wronged and grossly misunderstood underdogs.
She doesn’t waste time trying to prove her clients innocent. She knows that acquittal for them is impossible, given the extreme cruelty and mindless violence of their crimes. She aims at the commutation from death to a life sentence and considers that a victory. Somewhere in that ‘activist’ mind of hers, maybe there is genuine concern for the months of already log-jammed court schedules and millions in tax payers’ money that disappear into the black hole of judicial appeals. If there is such a concern, the world is yet to see it.
At one level, I can understand the argument that every accused man is entitled to criminal defense representation. But where the question of guilt is no longer in doubt, the criminal justice system needs to be overhauled so that Prima Dona attorneys are unable to milk it to their thirst for publicity, at the cost of taxpayers.
Heck, even this woman’s own salary came from the tax payer till recently and even included a bonus of $82000 once, for skillfully representing the child killer, Susan Smith and getting her off the electric chair. She may have returned the cash after the press got wind of it and then spent considerable time trying to make it seem like she had refused it all along.
Who says America isn’t a glowing beacon for fundamental rights? Of course, my own Canada has a judiciary which is permanently supine with its pants around its ankles, letting itself be had, by even the dumbest attorneys. It’s the only nation where a serial sexual predator and murderer, Karla Homolka, is set free after serving just 12 years.
Here’s another Canadian marvel. Manitoban Vince Li and carnival worker, Tim McNeal, were strangers to each other when they boarded a Greyhound bus heading to Winipeg from Edmonton in July 2008. Somewhere along, in full view of the other passengers Li beheaded McLean, carved him up and proceeded to eat parts of his body.
A court found Vince Li ‘criminally not responsible’ because ‘he was not aware of what he was doing’. Imagine. You eat somebody and you are not criminally responsible. Li was incarcerated in a cushy mental hospital, from where he has now been allowed unsupervised out-passes. The psychiatrist who gave the green signal for his release into the world, says,” This is 2014, not 1420. Everybody is entitled to a second chance.” Sure. Only, tough shit for McLean’s family.
While the Satan has us convinced that he is actually working for us, the woman I’m writing about would like us to believe she is a crusader for the rights of the ‘little guy’. They even say she has an aversion to the media and has never given an interview and that she’s freakishly low-key, under the radar. Yet op-eds and blogs buzz with news on her exploits. After all, attempting to seem like a recluse is in itself the best form of self-promotion.
There is of course another possibility.
Insensitive and brutal men inspire not horror but adulation, curiosity, affection, empathy and even sexual arousal in certain types of women. These women are called hybristophiliacs. American serial killer, rapist, kidnapper, and necrophile, Ted Bundy, who assaulted and murdered over 30 young women and girls during the 1970s, had a huge female fan club whose members believed that he was being victimized by the law. Some wanted to get to know him so they could ‘mother’ or ‘change’ him. There are other kinds of ‘psychopath groupies’ for whom the payback is the media attention that goes with any high profile trial.
Sometimes there’s this groupie who also happens to be a criminal lawyer. Disguising an extremely low self-esteem, she cannot pass up the ease of defending the indefensible in trials where there are no expectations of an acquittal. She loves to take on what no one would blame her for if she lost, cases in which she has nothing to lose but everything to gain, in terms of worldwide media attention.
And sometimes this lawyer puts on a very convincing underdog act too. She practices it well and even the jury and the judge begin to feel sorry for her and through her, her demonic client. I am not suggesting that this lady is just another hybristophiliac with a law degree and a glib tongue. Maybe, maybe not. Or else, she is simply being naïve.
Meet Judy Clarke, the Forest Gump of criminal defense attorneys, past President of the American Public Defenders’ Association and Law Professor in Virginia. She is the tortoise, not the hare.
Oh, I forgot to mention this. Media reports say Ms Clarke has taken on the case of the cute, baby-faced Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. I can already see the picture she will paint in court. A troubled childhood in war-torn Chechnya, the genocidal Russian army, the arduous escape to the US and the discrimination he faced there and the isolation by American society. Oh that poor dear, she’ll make the jury feel. Look how they’ve treated him. Now, why wouldn’t he blow an 8 year old child to smithereens after all that he has been through, huh?
By the time Judy Clarke is done, the court will need to bring in extra supplies of Kleenex for the jury. Want to talk with her? You’ll find her in her favorite spa, getting a facial. For the TV cameras, she claims to be ‘averse’ to.