As faithful readers of this blog know, for my sins no doubt, for the past 32 years I have been a member of the bar. In that time I have defended hundreds of people accused of misdemeanors and felonies. Criminal law is not a major portion of my practice, but like most small town attorneys I do take on criminal defense work both from private clients and by appointment by the Court. Criminal defense work is not for the faint of heart, as it involves often defending people de facto guilty of the crimes they are accused of, even if the State is not eventually able to prove them de jure guilty. Everyone is entitled to a defense, and not just the innocent, and my conscience has never been bothered by giving the best defense I can under the Law. Having said all that, even I am shocked by recent revelations of the defense by Hillary Clinton of a man accused of raping a 12 year old child back in 1975:
The prosecutor called me a few years ago, he said he had a guy who had been accused of rape, and the guy wanted a woman lawyer,” said Clinton in the interview. “Would I do it as a favor for him?”
The case was not easy. In the early hours of May 10, 1975, the Springdale, Arkansas police department received a call from a nearby hospital. It was treating a 12-year-old girl who said she had been raped.
The suspect was identified as Thomas Alfred Taylor, a 41-year-old factory worker and friend of the girl’s family.
And though the former first lady mentioned the ethical difficulties of the case in Living History, her written account some three decades later is short on details and has a far different tone than the tapes.
“It was a fascinating case, it was a very interesting case,” Clinton says in the recording. “This guy was accused of raping a 12-year-old. Course he claimed that he didn’t, and all this stuff” (LISTEN HERE).
Describing the events almost a decade after they had occurred, Clinton’s struck a casual and complacent attitude toward her client and the trial for rape of a minor.
“I had him take a polygraph, which he passed – which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs,” she added with a laugh.
Clinton can also be heard laughing at several points when discussing the crime lab’s accidental destruction of DNA evidence that tied Taylor to the crime.
From a legal ethics perspective, once she agreed to take the case, Clinton was required to defend her client to the fullest even if she did believe he was guilty.
“We’re hired guns,” Ronald D. Rotunda, a professor of legal ethics at Chapman University, told the Washington Free Beacon. “We don’t have to believe the client is innocent…our job is to represent the client in the best way we can within the bounds of the law.”
However, Rotunda said, for a lawyer to disclose the results of a client’s polygraph and guilt is a potential violation of attorney-client privilege.
“You can’t do that,” he said. “Unless the client says: ‘You’re free to tell people that you really think I’m a scumbag, and the only reason I got a lighter sentence is because you’re a really clever lawyer.’”