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Judy Clarke, Asheville Native, To Defend Boston Bombings Suspect

11:52 AM, Apr 30, 2013   |    comments
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Asheville, NC (ACT) -- An Asheville native and prominent anti-death penalty lawyer who has managed to get life sentences for several high-profile clients, including the Unabomber, has joined the defense team representing the Boston Marathon bombing suspect.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction during the April 15 marathon. Three people were killed and more than 260 injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line.

Full Coverage: Boston Marathon Bombings

A judge on Monday approved the appointment of death penalty expert Judy Clarke, who grew up in Asheville, to defend 19-year-old Tsarnaev. But judge Marianne Bowler denied, at least for now, a request from Tsarnaev's public defender, Miriam Conrad, to appoint a second death penalty lawyer - David Bruck, a professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law.

Tsarnaev's lawyers could renew their motion to appoint another death penalty expert if he is indicted, the judge said.

Clarke, a 1970 graduate of Roberson High School, has defended the likes of Eric Robert Rudolph, "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski and Jared Loughner, who was convicted of shooting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing six people outside an Arizona grocery store. All three received life sentences.

Clarke first gained notoriety in 1995 as part of the team defending Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who drowned her two young sons. A staunch opponent of the death penalty, Clarke was named one of the top 50 women lawyers in the country by the National Law Journal.

Clarke's intelligence and drive strongly impressed Tommy Koontz, who was principal at Roberson when she went to school there.

"Judy was one of those individuals you knew was going to go far in life, and she has," Koontz said when Clarke was appointed to represent Loughner in January 2011. "She was always interested in the rights of people. I'm very proud of her."

Koontz said Clarke served as student body president and played varsity basketball. "She was really an exceptional young lady," he said. "I am glad I had the opportunity to know her. I remember her as a young lady who was interested in things being done right."

Clarke is the daughter of the late Harry W. Clarke, a civic leader in Asheville and president of Western Carolina Industries. Her mother, Patsy, was a longtime actress with Asheville Community Theatre and former UNC Asheville speech teacher. Her sister, Candy, taught biology at Roberson before she retired.

In 2010 Clarke, who is in private practice in San Diego, was named one of seven "Graduates of Distinction" at Roberson.

Tony Baldwin, superintendent of Buncombe County Schools, went to school with Clarke and was friends with the family.

"I just recall Judy being a highly intelligent individual," he said. "She was a strong leader there at T.C. Roberson."

Clarke went to Furman University and received her law degree from the University of South Carolina in 1977.

Clarke, a former federal public defender who has argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, also represented Rudolph. The former Western North Carolina man avoided death in a plea deal and was sentenced to five consecutive life terms in 2005.

Rudolph killed two people and injured at least 150 at the 1996 Olympics and at a gay bar in Atlanta, and at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala. He was caught by a Murphy police officer in 2003 after hiding out in Nantahala National Forest for years.

Clarke has rarely spoken publicly about her work and did not return a call seeking comment Monday. However, at a speech Friday at a legal conference in Los Angeles, she talked about how she had been "sucked into the black hole, the vortex" of death penalty cases 18 years ago when she represented Smith.

"I got a dose of understanding human behavior, and I learned what the death penalty does to us," she said. "I don't think it's a secret that I oppose the death penalty."

Bruck has directed Washington and Lee's death penalty defense clinic, the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse, since 2004.

Clarke's clients have included the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski; Susan Smith, a woman who famously drowned her two children; Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph; and most recently Jared Loughner, who shot former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head. All received life sentences instead of the death penalty.

Clarke has rarely spoken publicly about her work and did not return a call seeking comment Monday. However, at a speech Friday at a legal conference in Los Angeles, she talked about how she had been "sucked into the black hole, the vortex" of death penalty cases 18 years ago when she represented Smith.

In other developments in the Boston case:

- FBI agents visited the home of the in-laws of the suspect's brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and carried away several bags. The brother was killed in a gun battle with police.

CNN reported at least one bag was labeled DNA samples.

FBI spokesman Jason Pack confirmed agents went to the North Kingstown home of Katherine Russell's parents Monday. Russell is Tsarnaev's widow and has been staying there.

Russell didn't speak as she left her attorneys' office in Providence. Attorney Amato DeLuca says she's doing everything she can to assist with the investigation.

- President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed terrorism coordination Monday in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. Obama expressed his "appreciation" for Russia's close cooperation after the attack.

The suspected bombers are Russian natives who immigrated to the Boston area. Russian authorities told U.S. officials before the bombings they had concerns about the family, but only revealed details of wiretapped conversations since the attack.


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Written By: Clarke Morrison

AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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