July 7th, 2014
02:49 PM ET
1 month ago

Clinton explains defense in controversial rape case

(CNN) – Hillary Clinton pushed back at ongoing criticism of her providing legal defense decades ago to an accused rapist, explaining that she had asked not to be assigned to the case but ultimately had a responsibility to represent her client.

In 1975, Clinton, a 27-year-old attorney, was appointed by a judge to represent Thomas Alfred Taylor, a 41-year-old man accused of raping a young girl, for free while working at the legal aid clinic at the University of Arkansas.

"I asked to be relieved of that responsibility but I was not and I had a professional duty to represent my client to the best of my ability, which I did," Clinton told Mumsnet, a British-based online parenting network, in an interview published Saturday.

Based on court documents obtained by CNN and Clinton's own account in her 2003 memoir "Living History," she won a plea deal for Taylor, securing a significantly reduced charge and sentence, based on a forensic mistake that cast doubt on the semen and blood samples found in the defendant's underwear.

Critics have pounced on Clinton's involvement in the nearly four-decade-old case to suggest that the likely 2016 presidential candidate is not the champion of women's issues she frames herself to be, pointing to court documents that show then Hillary Rodham questioned the girl's emotional state and an audio recording of Clinton from the 1980s where she says she believed her client was guilty.

Asked about her defense method, Clinton told the British outlet: "When you're a lawyer you often don't have the choice as to who you will represent and, by the very nature of criminal law, there will be those you represent that you don't approve of but, at least in our system, you have an obligation, and once I was appointed I fulfilled that obligation."

Previously Mahlon Gibson, the prosecuting attorney in the case, told CNN Clinton was appointed by the judge and expressed reservations in taking the case.

CNN's Dana Davidsen and Dan Merica contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2016 • Arkansas • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Doyle Wiley, MI

    As a lawyer Clinton did what was required of her. Many people would not separate personal feelings from justice. And, the fact that she did a good job for her client speaks volumes toward her integrity. Hello, Miss President.

    July 7, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  2. mikeyritter

    Honest job Hillary!

    July 7, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain: If you don't like Congress, get rid of the repub/tea bag majority

    From a Washington Free Beacon article about Clinton taking this case: From a legal ethics perspective, once Clinton agreed to take the case, she 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.”

    If you don't like our justice system, then move to Iran!

    July 7, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  4. Silence DoGood

    It is astounding that some of these right wing radical "constitutional" (so-called) folks do not seem to have a clue about how legal representation works, and how valuable that right to due process is this country.

    July 7, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    just asking

    Rudy NYC says:
    Why is she explaining any of it? It was the job that she was hired to do. She’s simply providing cannon fodder to the right.
    -

    yeah, yeah!! why do demorcrats have to answer for anything, no matter what it is?! it is the job of the left wing media to suppress this and attack those answering questions. only positive, fictious items about hillary clinton, the queen in waiting, are allowed.
    ---------------------------
    Why is it, after forty years, of such critical importance now? What difference would it make even if she said every bad thing that you want to hear her say on the issue? Nothing changes. You're just saying nothing, nothing at all.

    She was compelled to do a job that was assigned to her. I don't think you get to pick and choose which cases you will or will not do. And, you had better do your best to defend your client, otherwise your legal career is over. End of story.

    July 7, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  6. Lily

    As much as I like Hillary, I do not like that she is on the news every now and then. Her time hasn't come yet. The more she is in the news, the more people will get tired of her even before she announces she is in for a fight. I can't understand why is she enjoying all these media frenzy and letting to continue. Am afraid she might regret it.

    July 7, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Tommy G

    "just doing her job", "I asked to be relieved of that responsibility but I was not"
    -

    Total BUNK!! Nobody can FORCE anybody to represent somebody they do not want to represent. I can't believe people are so gullible.
    ====================================================
    Wow. How are you able to make most of your posts sound like you've been shouting and have turned red in the face?

    July 7, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  8. Malory Archer

    bill
    I wonder if she would defend this dirt bag if he raped HER daughter.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    No judge would assign an attorney to defend an individual in a case involving anyone from said attorney's family, so not only is your skirt showing, your point is as moot as it is ignorant.

    July 7, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  9. Marcus (from...?)

    just saying – sorry hillary, we always have choices and you choose to represent him.

    As usual, you don't even READ the story before you start posting your hate...
    Here's the whole 2nd paragraph of the story:
    'In 1975, Clinton, a 27-year-old attorney, was appointed by a judge to represent Thomas Alfred Taylor, a 41-year-old man accused of raping a young girl, for free while working at the legal aid clinic at the University of Arkansas.'
    She was APPOINTED.
    It was her job and, if she had chosen to fail (deliberately) her legal obligations with the 'being' she could face up to disbarrment and jail. That's the danger of working on those legal aid clinics, sometimes you have no choice but to defend the likes of Thomas Alfred Taylor...

    July 7, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Lily

    As much as I like Hillary, I do not like that she is on the news every now and then. Her time hasn't come yet. The more she is in the news, the more people will get tired of her even before she announces she is in for a fight. I can't understand why is she enjoying all these media frenzy and letting to continue. Am afraid she might regret it.
    =============================================================
    She could be playing rope-a-dope with the right wing. At the rate that they've been throwing spears, they'll be plum run out before the end of the year. And when they try to revive the old arguments and talking points, they will sound like an angry mob.

    July 7, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  11. Marcus (from...?)

    Tommy G – "just doing her job", "I asked to be relieved of that responsibility but I was not" - Total BUNK!! Nobody can FORCE anybody to represent somebody they do not want to represent. I can't believe people are so gullible.

    Says the dude who has ZERO knowledge of how the judiciary works.
    A little explanation: Once the judge says YOU are appointed to defend THIS man you have ONE shot at getting rid of your client, which according to the guy who was the prosecutor in the case she did try, and if it fails you have nothing left but do your job.
    Don't like it? Change the system.
    Just don't do what you always do, pretend to know about what your talking about....

    July 7, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "yeah, yeah!! why do demorcrats have to answer for anything..."

    There's nothing to "answer for" here. There is no here, here. The only thing that makes this "controversial" is the GOP/Teatrolls yammering baseless, irrational talking points about it and the MSM/CNN adopting the GOP/Teatrolls position by using the word "controversial" to inaccurately describe it. It's no different than when you watch the anchor-bobblehead on the nightly news spew a string of adjectives about something to be sure you've been informed about how you should think about the issue. Hint: adjectives =/= analysis.

    July 7, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. morebs

    to the person that said would she defend a rapist if it was her daughter. a lawyer cannot defend someone if there is a "conflict of interest". and I believe that situation would fall under that category

    July 7, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  14. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    Non issue unless your to stupid to know that a lawyers JOB is to represent THEIR client?????? Like it or not and appointed by a judge.

    July 7, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  15. Trooth

    She was a defense attorney. Of all of the controversial things in her past, this is the least of them.

    July 7, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  16. Hillary Clinton -- Every Rapists Dream Lawyer

    Hillary Clinton lies all the time. I don't believe she really did try to get off the case. Judges don't hold guns to lawyers heads to make them represent people they don't want to.

    July 7, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  17. Steve, New York City

    I am FAR FROM being a Hillary Clinton fan. That being said, this criticism of her, when she was just doing her job in her official capacity, is kind of below the belt.

    In my view, people like the person she defended should either be shot or chemically castrated - and whether she could sleep at night, depending such a piece of filth is another matter. . . . but quite silly to pick on her when she was just doing her job!

    July 7, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "Total BUNK!! Nobody can FORCE anybody to represent somebody they do not want to represent. I can't believe people are so gullible."

    Do you also yell angrily at your Cap'n Crunch when it cuts the roof of your mouth?

    Yes, a judge can order a public defender to represent someone. This is basics, Jethro. Basics.

    July 7, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
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