What type of legal defense will Jared Loughner's legal team mount? How do you defend a suspect who carries out a violent crime as publicly as the one Loughner allegedly carried out in Tucson?
Sometimes getting a life sentence in a capital murder case is the best an attorney can do.
These are questions that will be worked out by the public defender assigned to the case of the 22-year-old man accused attempting to assassinate Representative Gabriell Giffords during a shooting rampage in Tucson that left six people dead and 13 others injured.
Loughner's case has been assigned to Judy Clarke, a public defender who has defended suspects in some of the nation's most high-profile cases.
Clarke's list of clients accused of capital offenses includes Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother who drowned her two sons; Theodore Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber; the Olympic Park Bomber Eric Rudolph; and Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the conspirators in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The San Diego attorney has also amassed an impressive list of accolades.
According to the Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc, Clarke "is so highly regarded as an attorney, that after she left FDSDI she was appointed in many high-profile cases ...[and] continues to have an outstanding reputation as a leading specialist in federal capital cases."
More about Clarke from the Federal Death Penalty Review Counsel:
Ms. Clarke is a 1974 graduate of Furman University, and a 1977 graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law. She is a Past President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and was selected by the National Law Journal in 1998 as one of the top 50 women lawyers in the United States and in 2001 as one of the top women litigators in the U.S.
(The Counsel is an organization is made up of 12 veteran capital defense attorneys who serve as resources to defense counsel in federal capital cases.)
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Clarke is in private practice in San Diego, works with the San Diego federal defender's office on capital cases and collaborates in death-penalty cases around the county.
Loughner could face death for at least one of the five federal charges against him, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The maximum penalties for the offenses charged in the Criminal Complaint are as follows:
Count 1: Attempted Assassination of a Member of Congress, 18 USC 351(c) - life imprisonment
Counts 2, 3: Murder of Judge John Roll and Gabriel Zimmerman, 18 USC 1114 and 1111 - death or life imprisonment
Counts 4, 5: Attempted Murder of Pamela Simon and Ron Barber, 18 USC 1114 and 1113 - 20 years imprisonment
Clarke could not immediately be reached for comment.