The lawyer heading the defense for the alleged Boston Marathon bomber in federal court in Boston is well-versed in capital cases and the long, emotionally charged process that would come if federal prosecutors seek the death penalty, according to legal observers and her own colleagues.
Judy Clarke, a former public defender now working as a private lawyer in San Diego, has been tapped to represent Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old from Cambridge charged in the bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260. Three other public defenders from Boston have also been assigned to the case, including one who speaks Tsarnaev’s native Russian.
Cases involving the death penalty allow for the appointment of an outside lawyer “learned in the law applicable to capital cases,” according to court records, and Clarke has been at the center of some of the most high-profile cases that the country has seen in recent times — cases that often include emotionally charged public calls for the death penalty.
“It’s a huge challenge, and if anyone is up for it, it’s Judy Clarke,” said Quin Denvir, a former public defender who has worked with her. “They’re really difficult cases. The client’s life is at stake, it’s a huge moral battle.”
Already, the defense team won a request to have photos of Tsarnaev taken to show his state of health after his violent escape and then capture by police, and they could be used as evidence to argue against the death penalty.
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