The defence team representing the Boston Marathon bombing suspect got a major boost Monday with the addition of Judy Clarke, a San Diego lawyer who has won life sentences instead of the death penalty for several high-profile clients, including the Unabomber and the gunman in the rampage that injured former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Clarke's appointment was approved Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler.
The judge denied, at least for now, a request from Miriam Conrad, the public defender of 19-year-old suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, to appoint a second death penalty lawyer, David Bruck, a professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law.
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.
The suspect's lawyers could renew their motion to appoint another death penalty expert if he is indicted, the judge said.
Tsarnaev's mother has staunchly defended him, calling the bombing allegations against him lies.
Clarke's clients have included the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski; Susan Smith, who drowned her two children; Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph; and most recently Tucson, Ariz., shooter Jared Loughner. 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.
"I got a dose of understanding human behaviour, 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."
Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz said the decision to put Clarke on the defence team shows "they are going to litigate hard against the death penalty."
"They are not going to put on a jihadi defence," he said. "The client wants to live, and he wants to avoid the death penalty. They are not going to say, 'I want to die, I want to join my brother.' "