Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

June 24, 2014

GOP shouldn't demonize a politician for defending the accused

WASHINGTON — When Republicans went after Debo Adegbile — President Barack Obama’s former nominee to the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department — they focused their fire on his prior professional obligations as a defense attorney, and in particular his work in the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the convicted murderer of a Philadelphia police officer. Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick said that his representation of Abu-Jamal “made a mockery of the jury’s verdict and the court’s sentence,” while conservative outlets from Fox News to the Washington Times denounced Adegbile as a “cop-killer coddler” and worse.

In the end, the frenzy of criticism was enough to spook Democrats and derail his nomination.

In an ad, the RGA denounced Sheheen for “personally defending dangerous criminals” — in other words, doing his job as a defense attorney. Despite tough criticism from South Carolina legal groups — Alice Paylor, head of the state bar association, called it an attack on “the Constitutional principles that are essential to a free society” — the RGA never removed the ad.

Last Tuesday, the Washington Free Beacon released audio recordings of Clinton discussing her criminal defense of Thomas Alfred Taylor, a 41-year-old accused of raping a child. For the Free Beacon, this audio — which includes “Clinton’s suggestion that she knew Taylor was guilty at the time” — “calls into question Clinton’s narrative as a devoted women and children’s advocate in Arkansas.”

And on Friday, the Daily Beast added to the pile, publishing excerpts from an interview with Taylor’s rape victim in question, now 52, who says “Hillary Clinton took me through Hell.” Like the the Free Beacon, the Beast suggests that this complicates Clinton’s reputation. “Whether or not Clinton was just doing her duty as a defense lawyer,” writes reporter Josh Rogin, “for the victim, Clinton’s behavior speaks to her character, her ambition, and her suitability to be a role model for women or president of the United States.”

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