Clinton Under Attack For Serving As Counsel In Rape Case In 1975

Hillary_Clinton_Testimony_to_House_Select_Committee_on_BenghaziThere is an interesting story that has been raging on conservative sites on the Internet but suddenly popped up on national television in a CNN interview. Conservatives are criticizing CNN host Carol Costello for abruptly ending a segment on Tuesday after a guest raised Hillary Clinton’s 1975 legal defense of an accused child rapist. I recently condemned an attack ad against Judge Jane Kelly (a widely respected former public defender) for representing a criminal defendant. The attack on Clinton is equally low grade and unfair.

The case involved the defense of a man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in 1975. Clinton was a court-appointed attorney for Thomas Alfred Taylor, a 41-year-old accused of raping the child after luring her into a car. The suggestion of critics is that such people should not have court-appointed counsel or more importantly lawyers should not represent them (or face condemnation decades later).

The story drew life from the release of taped interviews where Clinton discusses the case and says that she used a a legal technicality to plead her client, who faced 30 years to life in prison, down to a lesser charge.

Hillary Rodham was just 27 when she moved to Fayetteville and was running the University of Arkansas’ legal aid clinic. Her work at the clinic is highly commendable and this is a standard request for such legal aid lawyers. Clinton later described it as “a fascinating case . . . a very interesting case.”

I think the thrust of the criticism of Clinton is unfair and inimical to the rule of law. It is impossible to believe in the rule of law without accepting core principles of the right to counsel and due process. This attack seeks to demonize lawyers for simply defending accused persons.

There is one aspect of the interview that does frankly bother me. Clinton says “I had him take a polygraph, which he passed – which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs.” She also seems to suggest that Taylor was saved by the fact that the crime lab accidentally destroyed DNA evidence that tied Taylor to the crime. I find that problematic, particularly in suggesting that a polygraph supporting a former client was clearly wrong — and that he was by extension clearly guilty. Clinton could defend these words by noting that Taylor did plead guilty and thus she is not sharing anything confidential.

The former prosecutor has supported Clinton and tried to explain (what should be obvious) that this is a duty of lawyers, particularly when court-appointed. Indeed, the litigation experience of Clinton is a strength in my view to her qualifications as someone who have been exposed (even if on a limited basis) to the criminal justice system.

There is a particularly criticism of a July 28, 1975 court affidavit where Clinton wrote that she had been informed the young girl was “emotionally unstable” and had a “tendency to seek out older men and engage in fantasizing.” However, the job of defense counsel is to challenge opposing witnesses including the accuser. They have a right to make such challenges in asserting their innocence. Clinton did precisely that in objection that the child had “in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body” and that the girl “exhibits an unusual stubbornness and temper when she does not get her way.”

She also challenged the “evidentiary value of semen and blood samples collected by the sheriff’s office” by questioning the chain of custody — a standard, if not uniform, attack for defense counsel in such cases.

She told the interviewers that her client “plea bargained. Got him off with time served in the county jail, he’d been in the county jail for about two months.”

In the end, Taylor pleaded to unlawful fondling of a chid and was sentenced to one year in prison,with two months reduced for time served. He died in 1992.

This is a case of a court-appointed attorney performing the most important function of an attorney in representing an accused person in a heinous crime. She clearly do so zealously and effectively as she sworn to do in taking an oath as a lawyer. There are many criticisms of Clinton that have been discussed on this blog. I have often joined in that criticism over such things as the refusal to release the transcripts from Clinton’s speeches. However, this is one criticism that is, in my view, beyond the pale — even in this poisonous political environment.

You can listen to the tape here.

82 thoughts on “Clinton Under Attack For Serving As Counsel In Rape Case In 1975”

  1. Tin’s assertion that the victim didn’t understand that Clinton was quoting a psychological assessment does indicate that someone is not understanding the situation. Clinton’s affidavit cites an unnamed psychologist for the general observation that children of disorganized families like the victim’s may romanticize encounters more often than others, but there are more things in the affidavit than that. So far as I can see in the Scribd document dump, Clinton did not source her affidavit in any “psychological assessment” of the victim. The affidavit concerns Clinton’s support for her motion to compel the 12-year-old victim to undergo a hostile psychiatric examination to investigate the various bits of hearsay Clinton lists in that affidavit. Those bits of hearsay include the claims that the victim sought out older men, that she fantasized, and that she had previously lied about attacks on her body. These are bog-standard victim-blaming assertions, they are specific to the victim, and they are not the result of psychological assessment of the victim. According to the victim, they are falsehoods as well. Clinton also accuses the victim of a reputation for temper when she didn’t get her way, as yet another point for psychiatric examination. The most positive gloss to put on it is that Clinton was credulously passing on a laundry list of gossip that she had heard, and asking the court to have that gossip supported via psychiatric exam. We don’t have any documentation of sources for any of those, so less charitable interpretations would assign those gossipy bits to invention rather than communication. There is nothing further about the psychiatric exam, so I surmise the plea deal made the motion to compel it moot.

  2. Bunnie:

    It appears you are engaging in false logic, disputing claims that I did not actually make.

    “As a wife, She was responsible for her husband cheating with a series of women.” I never said anything of the kind. It was her choice to stay with a cheater, but not her fault that he slept around. If he was unhappy with her, he should have divorced her. I have zero idea what kind of mother she was, and never thought about it.

    Why do you assume all criticism is because of her politics? Do you defend her because of her politics? I wonder if you defend conservative women as vigorously.

    “Being a women’s advocate Hillary wasn’t advocating for rights of these women to continue to sleep with her husband or anyone else’s husband, so She is no longer an advocate for women?” No. No one has said that. The criticism is that she crucified these women, calling them “Looney Toons”, “bimbos” – you know the drill for sexual misconduct victims. She knew the entire time they were telling the truth, but she claimed it was all a right wing conspiracy.

    I’m so tired of liars in Washington. Aren’t you? She’s been in the public eye so long that she has a very long history of being caught lying.

  3. Seems pretty clear that most Regressives just don’t care much for any of the amendments past the second one. Right to counsel? Meh, not so much. Cruel and unusual punishment? Nah, just kill ’em. Free speech? Free for me, not so much for thee. Non establishment of religion? Well, we could establish mine and flush yours. And so it goes, down the line.
    And the fact that it’s Hillary? OMG so much the better. More ammo.

    There’s a lot NOT to like about Hillary Clinton, but this had nothing to do with any of that.

  4. Paul writes, “stevegroen – I am not into either dominance or submission. As an agnostic I do not concern myself with Corinthians. I have always considered girls/women to be equals.”

    What about men and women?

  5. Nick:

    “Karen, There are too many sleazeballs like Hillary that gloat about stuff like this.”

    True. For me, this is just one more thing on the Mt Everest pile of issues – corruption, lies, attacking women who accused her husband of sexual misconduct, Watergate, Benghazi. Why would anyone want more of the same establishment unaccountable politics that has given Congress an approval rating lower than cockroaches?

    We’ve all seen escalating violence around the home and abroad. (We even had a terrorist behead a woman in OK.) Whomever we elect as president is going to likely have to lead us during terrorist attacks domestically and upon our allies, and possible military action. How did HC do when she was at the helm of State during a terrorist attack on our embassy? I read the interim report by the Benghazi Select Committee ( which is still dragging on. According to the interim report, the Executive Branch finally produced 4,000 pages of documents that were subpoenaed in 2013, but it STILL has not complied with all of the subpoena. One of the silver linings of the email scandal is that State finally produced at least some of HC’s emails pertaining to Benghazi.

  6. I was tired of hearing about her damn emails. But this criticism is beyond the Joanne Palin. Oh, sorry, beyond the Pale. The Paletinate. East of Corfu the Ten Commandments Don’t Apply and all that.

  7. steve, Tin apparently has this meme that it’s all about Hillary being a woman, ignoring the fact that she has proven to be a sleazeball, sociopath. Tin has a story and she’s stickin’ to it!

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