Consumed by post-traumatic stress disorder, haunted by memories of the lit cigarette she was forced to hold to her 9-year-old daughter’s flesh, Therese Rogers was delusional when she fatally stabbed her abusive boyfriend in the eyes more than 30 years ago. That was the defense mounted by Kevin J. Reddington, the first lawyer in the state to successfully argue that battered woman syndrome “amounts to temporary insanity,” making the defendant not responsible for her crime — an achievement that helped earn him membership in a prestigious class of American lawyers.
Now, as attorney for Lindsay Clancy, the Duxbury mother who allegedly killed her three children last month before attempting suicide, the Brockton-based lawyer is preparing for another vigorous defense of a client suffering, he says, from mental illness.
In the decades since Rogers’s acquittal in the 1989 landmark case, Reddington went on to represent a range of defendants from all walks of life, from a Mafia boss to a Fall River mayor to the girlfriend of notorious South Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger. But few lawyers are as familiar as he is with crimes of insanity, mental health crisis-driven horrors derived from unanswered pleas for help.
And few, say those who know him well, are as well-equipped to tackle even the most tragic cases of loss and devastation.
“It’s a combination of his preparation and his human touch,” said former federal prosecutor Zachary R. Hafer, who is now a partner at the law firm Cooley LLP in Boston. “He understands the human element and how it impacts cases, especially cases like this.”
For his part, the 71-year-old Reddington takes things in stride, a defender’s defender who actually represented well-known defense attorney Robert A. George in a white-collar crime case Hafer prosecuted a decade ago. With membership in the invitation-only American College of Trial Lawyers, made up of less than 1 percent of trial lawyers in the United States and Canada, he has handled more than 100 murder cases. A collector of skulls and tattoos — including one that says, “nunquam redo an intentor,” or “never represent an informant” — Reddington considers himself the Keith Richards of the defense bar: “Grey. Bold. Still Alive,” he joked in an interview with the Globe recently.
As a prosecutor, Hafer faced off against Reddington for more than a decade, as recently as in the 2021 federal trial of former Fall River mayor Jasiel F. Correia II, who extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from local vendors, major investors, and even his chief of staff. Correia was convicted on 21 of his 24 charges, but Hafer said Reddington was nevertheless “a formidable opponent.”
Hafer also remembered prosecuting the Bulger case while Reddington was defending the famous South Boston mobster’s longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig, who ultimately pled guilty to helping Bulger evade capture for more than 16 years.
Reddington saw more success with another celebrity defendant: Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn, who can attribute his 1998 verdict of “not guilty” to the defense attorney, who convinced a jury that Vaughn’s multiple failed sobriety tests after a car accident were not the result of late-night drunk driving, but rather shock from the crash that flipped his truck, combined with some off-season weight gain and a knee injury.
But Reddington’s ability to see the human being behind even the most horrific acts, his supporters say, has enabled him to take on not just celebrity cases, but high-profile crimes that may seem unthinkable.
Before even beginning his defense of Richard Shuman, who was convicted of murdering two business associates in the late 1990s, Reddington convinced Stoughton police to allow a Duxbury psychologist to assess Shuman on the night of his arrest. In court, Reddington stressed the extent of Shuman’s depression, how he was too disoriented to even enter a not guilty plea, according to a 1997 story from the Patriot Ledger. The judge decided to send the defendant to Bridgewater State Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
In Clancy’s case, Reddington obtained early approval from a judge to have her examined by a forensic psychologist and is hoping to convince a judge Tuesday to let her await trial at her parent’s home with a GPS device, at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital or the Worcester Recovery Center, a state-run Department of Mental Health secure facility, rather than in jail. “Something humane,” he said.
Reddington made clear that he is again preparing an insanity defense, which several criminal defense lawyers told the Globe is likely to make a strong case. But his methods, those who have observed his career say, are rooted in a sincere interest in and commitment to his clients’ well-being.
“Lawyers are supposed to be dispassionate, ‘just the facts,’ that sort of thing. But something this fraught — young children killed by their mother, notwithstanding the mental health issues that the defendant appears to have had — you have to have a deft touch,” Hafer said. “Reddington fights really hard for his clients, and he does that without alienating all the other people in the system.”
Keith Halpern, a defense attorney with experience representing defendants with mental health challenges, said that the evidence in Clancy’s case points to an insanity defense, but that he believes state prosecutors should “have the courage and the guts” to assess Clancy’s mental wellness for themselves, and to choose not to proceed with criminal charges if they don’t believe she was acting rationally.
“If they don’t feel that the evidence proves it beyond a reasonable doubt, then they shouldn’t bring the case,” Halpern said. “Saying, ‘well, let a jury figure it out,’ is a complete abdication of what their role is supposed to be.”
If prosecutors do bring the case, Reddington’s history indicates he has no intention of backing down from the challenge.
“You need a diligent district attorney to protect society, but you need the counter-balance of an aggressive defense attorney,” Reddington told the Patriot Ledger in 1997.
“You need both sides working hard to advocate their respective sides in front of a fair judge. Then you need a jury to bring its own collective life experiences and common sense to reach a verdict,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing, and it works.”