Archive for Sunday, April 10, 2005

Bombing suspect gets ‘dream team’

Eric Rudolph’s lawyer helped keep Unabomber, others off death row

April 10, 2005

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— The lawyer at the center of the deal that will spare serial bomber Eric Rudolph's life has helped keep other big-name defendants off death row -- including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

Judy Clarke has been described as a "one-woman Dream Team" by a colleague who helped her defend Susan Smith, the South Carolina mom who avoided a death sentence after being convicted of drowning her two little boys in 1995.

Clarke helped Kaczynski cop a plea and avoid a death sentence, and on Friday, Rudolph followed suit, agreeing to plead guilty to the deadly 1996 Olympic park bombing in Atlanta, a fatal 1998 abortion clinic blast in Birmingham and two others in Atlanta in 1997.

A staunch opponent of capital punishment, Clarke works for the federal defender's office in San Diego and is considered one of the nation's leading death penalty lawyers.

"She just doesn't believe in the death penalty, so she does everything she can to keep that from happening," said Doug Jones, who was U.S. attorney in Birmingham at the time of the abortion clinic bombing.

In court, where she typically wears dark suits with floppy bow ties, Clarke showed what appeared to be an easy familiarity with Rudolph. She often leaned over to whisper to him or occasionally put a hand on his shoulder to make a point.

Rudolph, believed to be a follower of a white supremacist religion that is anti-abortion, anti-gay and anti-Semitic, became an almost mythic figure to some in the region as he eluded a 5 1/4-year manhunt of Appalachian wilderness.

He was captured near a grocery store trash bin in Murphy, N.C., in 2003 and charged with carrying out a string of bombings that killed two people and wounded more than 120.

Clarke, who rarely grants interviews, did not return messages seeking comment.

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