BOSTON (AP) – With her arm around the young man’s back, she gives him a gentle pat and leans in to whisper something to him. Judy Clarke could be his mother, with this simple, comforting gesture, but she is not.
She is a defence lawyer and he is accused of bombing the Boston Marathon.
Clarke has defended those accused of horrific and infamous crimes, including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph and Arizona shooter Jared Lee Loughner, who killed six people and wounded 13 others, including US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in 2011. She saved all of them from the death penalty and hopes to do the same for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the man accused in the 2013 marathon bombing that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
In what has become a familiar refrain in Clarke’s career, she faces tough odds. Tsarnaev, 21, faces a total of 30 charges in the bombings and the killing days later of an Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer; 17 of the charges carry the possibility of the death penalty.
Clarke, 62, has a modest, unassuming way about her. She declined a request to be interviewed, but instead suggested a story on other members of the team of federal public defenders also working on the Tsarnaev case.
Lawyers who have worked with her say the same gentle quality she has shown with Tsarnaev has helped her connect with her other clients and, in turn, helped save their lives.
“During a time when the world was focused on my brother as a monster, she was able to see him as a human being and provide him with that kind of human contact and emotional support at a time when he had very little sympathy from anyone,” said David Kaczynski, who made the difficult decision to turn in his brother after he suspected him in a series of bombings that killed three people and injured 23 others between 1978 and 1995.
“She really sees each human being as a human being and defines them not in terms of what they may have done or how sick they may be or how fanatical they may be, but through a kind of human core,” David Kaczynski said.
Clarke, who grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, later told her local newspaper that she knew she wanted to be a lawyer at a young age and found it natural to devote her career to defending the accused.
“You’re dealing with liberty,” she told The Asheville Citizen-Times in 1995. “It’s the ultimate in legal issues to me, whether or not someone is free.”
Clarke began her career as a federal public defender in San Diego and Spokane, Washington state. A staunch death penalty opponent, she agreed in 1994 to help represent Susan Smith, a South Carolina woman who drowned her two young boys by letting her car roll into a lake with her children buckled into their car seats.